Nevada County supervisors raise questions about business growth, marijuana
Some members of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Aug. 8, sharply questioned the chairwoman of the Economic Resource Council after she delivered her annual report, questioning what results her group has delivered.
The back-and-forth came after Mary Owens, the ERC’s chairwoman, reiterated the need for housing and a planned high-speed fiber optic system in her presentation to the Board of Supervisors.
Shavati Karki-Pearl, also with the ERC, said her group has several programs related to industry growth and retention. Owens said a housing committee is in the works.
Supervisor Heidi Hall, however, said there’s strong interest in results from the council. Hall also expressed concern over what she called a perceived lack of coordination between the ERC and local businesses.
“You’ve got a lot of fancy names and words and initiatives, but what we’re interested in are the outcomes,” Hall said.
According to Hall, the ERC focused on virtual reality technology, though it appears to her that the industry isn’t quickly expanding here. Hall suggested the ERC focus on growing the base of existing businesses.
“We’re not looking for a whale,” said Owens in agreeing with Hall while noting ERC members have spent hours discussing how best to help existing businesses. “Nevada County couldn’t swallow a whale.”
Hall also focused on anecdotes she’s heard from people claiming they approached the economic council with ideas and were turned away. Owens said she’s heard the same, calling them rumors, adding she’s never spoken with someone who had those concerns.
Under questioning by Hall about marijuana, Owens said cannabis advocates had approached her group. However, Owens said at this time she can’t work with them because of the ERC’s nonprofit status through the federal government. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
Supervisor Ed Scofield said the economic council must know the county’s position on cannabis before promoting marijuana-related businesses. That position doesn’t exist yet, as the county’s cannabis community advisory group is still developing recommendations for a permanent grow ordinance.
Contacted after the meeting, Nevada County Cannabis Alliance director Diana Gamzon said she approached Owens’ group about picking a firm to conduct an economic impact study of the local cannabis industry.
“We value the ERC and the work that they have done to attract industries to Nevada County,” said Gamzon in an email. “While we were turned down on our request to collaborate, we do look forward to further conversations with the ERC.”
Pivoting subjects, Supervisor Dan Miller asked Owens the status of the Green Screen Institute. That institute, Owens said, encompasses several areas, including a co-working space and accelerator program, the latter of which provides 10 weeks of intense training to entrepreneurs.
One of those entrepreneurs located his business in the Green Screen Institute building after last year’s program, Owens said.
“Green Screen is a concept, not one specific thing,” Owens said.
Supervisor Richard Anderson, who represents eastern Nevada County, congratulated Owens for her group’s first steps. However, he said the Economic Resource Council’s efforts appear focused on the western side of the county.
Agreeing with Anderson, Owens called the first two years of a five-year contract with the county foundational. She intends on expanding her group’s activities in its third year.
“We are one county, and I want it to be recognized as one county,” she said.