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City turns to Web to help attract businesses to area

Susan Wood

South Lake Tahoe expects to be more attractive in the worldwide complex of business in the coming months.

In what is the first economic development tool to come before the city in recent memory, leaders agreed Tuesday to contract with a San Francisco company that develops Web-based programs to provide geographic data primarily to businesses looking for new locations.

The creation of the Zoom Prospector program will cost $17,700 for the first year, which will be paid for with redevelopment funds.

The idea is to provide easy-to-access, formatted information that tells a story of the South Shore – from the demographics of customers in the area to consumer buying habits. The data may be linked to sites like that of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Featured in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, CNN and the Los Angeles Times, GIS Planning-via http://www.gisplanning.com – plots the data for companies to make informed decisions. Interactive maps will be used, but the exact format including Tahoe’s Web address are yet to be determined. GIS stands for geographic information system.

The concept, used in cities such as Tucson, Ariz., and Honolulu, is the brainchild of Camden Collins, the city’s new economic development coordinator.

During her first few months on the job, Collins learned that South Shore residents are not being served by retail. Residents shopping off the hill and leaving the tax revenue elsewhere has remained an elephant-in-the-living-room problem that appears too big for the business community to tackle.

“This seemed like a good investment,” she said.

To her surprise, Collins noted how, for example, one cannot get a solid number on leasing vacancy rates in the city.

El Dorado County, deemed a data contributor to the site for the city, will be watching its progress, she added.

“El Dorado County is pretty unique. Stuff was done so many years ago and remained unchanged,” said Keith Cooney, who works for Placer Title and serves on the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce board. “I think it would be a great resource if done right – to have the right demographic information.”

The city’s staff, citizens and council members have noticed more and more businesses closing up shop – only to have their buildings remain vacant. Many argue the consequences go far beyond less tax revenue and a vital economy. For some, it’s a credibility issue for South Lake Tahoe.

“I do not think we can afford not to do this,” Mayor Kathay Lovell said, before the 4-1 vote. Councilman Ted Long dissented because he called for the city to be prudent given budget restraints.


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