Douglas commission looks at economic plan for county |

Douglas commission looks at economic plan for county

Sara Thompson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Douglas County Commissioners on Thursday provided direction regarding a new economic development plan that will pursue new business markets and work to attract companies to move to the area.

“This has been a really fun project for me since February,” Douglas County Manager T. Michael Brown said at the meeting held in Stateline.

The county plays a direct and indirect role when it comes to business, Brown said. Indirectly the county provides public services and contributes to the business climate and community’s character. Direct roles include planning, permitting and funding, he added.

“Growth and development is going to happen, and the board has a very valuable role on when and where that occurs,” Brown said.

Douglas County Commissioner David Brady said the county needs a vision with its economic development plan.

“We need to define what we want to look like in the next five to 10 years,” Brady said.

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The county should also look 40 years forward when making economic development decisions, Commissioner Greg Lynn said.

Commissioner Michael Olson said Nevada is more attractive to businesses than California is at the moment.

“I agree we should look 40 years out,” Olson said. “Some opportunities are out there, and we should be striking while the iron is hot.”

To pursue economic development, the county needs to collaborate with public and private partners, Brown said.

Robert Hooper, Northern Nevada Development Authority executive director, said the NNDA has been working to bring more businesses to the county.

“We’re thinking regionally and acting locally,” Hooper said.

The unemployment level is “unacceptable” in the region, and the agency’s main focus has been bringing new business to the area, Hooper said.

NNDA is working with clients who want to relocate to Douglas County.

A CEO from a Southern California manufacturing company visited the area on vacation, and now wants to move the operation to the Minden area, Hooper said. If that happens, 400 jobs would be created.

Hooper mentioned other companies interested in moving operations from California to Nevada.

“We’re catching them and we’re bringing them here,” Hooper said. “We can’t just sit here and say we’re Motel 6 and say ya’ll come.”

“I believe we’re in a really good position and the wave is coming back toward us,” he said.

Hooper said the county needs to focus on a target market it wants to attract. One area Brown and Hooper thought might work is outdoor lifestyle equipment manufacturers, such as companies that make skis, kayaks or bikes.

Kathy Halbardier, with the Nevada Small Business Development Center, described the resources her center offers, such as information and counseling for businesses and help with loans and finding federal stimulus dollars.

Halbardier also highlighted the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $70,000 grant that was just awarded to the Lake Tahoe Basin. The money will be used to draft a Prosperity Plan – a road map for local jurisdictions and organizations with recommendations for business retention, expansion and workforce development.

The money needs a combined $50,000 match from the basin’s five counties and the city of South Lake Tahoe, which everyone has already committed to, Halbardier said.

“It’s exciting to get that many people playing in the sandbox,” Halbardier said.

Douglas County Chairwoman Nancy McDermid wanted to emphasize that plans are good, but need to be acted on as well.

“I’ve lived in Tahoe long enough to know you can get a zillion plans, but then they sit on the shelves,” McDermid said. “We need clear steps to this vision. If you don’t do that, you’re back where you started.”

Staff recommended the board hire economic development consultant Karen Craig at its next meeting.

“I take the plans off the shelf and get them into action,” Craig said.