Martians and vikings: The common thread is Tahoe Prosperity Center (opinion) |

Martians and vikings: The common thread is Tahoe Prosperity Center (opinion)

Heidi Hill Drum
Tribune Opinion Columnist

What do “The Martian,” Viking ships and the Tahoe Prosperity Center have in common? More than you might think.

First, “The Martian” — in this movie starring Matt Damon he is left stranded on Mars. In order to return to Earth, he has to solve lots of problems. One at a time, step by step, always thinking about the end goal in mind — surviving long enough so he can get back to Earth. Some of his solutions don’t work so he has to solve new problems created from his previous attempts. If you haven’t seen the movie — spoiler alert — don’t read this next sentence. When Damon returns and tells the new class of astronauts how he got back, his focus is on exactly that — taking one small step at a time, solving one problem at a time and then moving onto the next problem.

Next, the Viking ships ­— those regal ships with numerous oars on each side. In order to move, the oars must be in sync. They must row in the same direction. In order to go straight, someone must steer the ship.

Tahoe Prosperity Center helps steer the “ship” and keep everyone focused on solutions to big issues facing our communities. One example is our Connected Tahoe project to expand high-speed internet and cell phone coverage. Step 1 was conducting speed tests around the region to map areas that did not have high-speed internet. That was completed in 2015. Step 2 was identifying infrastructure grants to expand service and get three-to-five-year expansion plans for cell towers. Step 2 was completed earlier this year. Step 3 includes putting conduit under bike paths and road projects, and choosing the final locations for future cell towers. This is happening now. Tahoe Prosperity Center “captains” this effort with our partners — including U.S. Forest Service, local governments, and cell phone and internet service providers. We aren’t installing broadband or building towers. But, without us, this coordinated effort would not have happened.

We are also captain of the ship for our Workforce Tahoe project. The first step was to understand current challenges and opportunities local businesses have in the region. We conducted over 500 business interviews to gather direct input that will inform the next step — strategies to deal with those challenges. Challenges vary — for some businesses hiring skilled workers was a problem, for others finding housing for their workers was difficult and for others they have great employees and are thriving.

The common thread is Tahoe Prosperity Center steering the ship, while local partners keep the oars moving in sync in the right direction. Our schools are focused on workforce training and skills. Local community foundations and government are coordinating on housing opportunities. Businesses that are thriving are helping to attract new businesses to our region — bringing with them new residents, new ideas and new energy and enthusiasm. TPC promotes Tahoe as a viable destination to live, work and play simply by coordinating our workforce efforts to maximize collective impact.

If we tackle other problems one by one, address issues together and stay on the ship, we’re going to make it back to Earth. Or, in this case, we will succeed in our mission — uniting Tahoe’s communities to strengthen regional prosperity for all who live, work and play here. Join our efforts today and board the ship with us at

Heidi Hill Drum is the executive director of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe’s communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and is a 20-year resident of Tahoe. Heidi, with her husband John, are happily raising their two boys in South Lake Tahoe.

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