Opinion: SWOTTing the South Shore
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Earlier this month I had the good fortune of spending the day with the Leadership Lake Tahoe class of 2015-16. The topic for the day was the “local economy”and my role was to provide them with some common terminology and understanding of how an economy functions. We spent time discussing the evolution of the Tahoe Basin economy from logging through gaming and tourism to today’s desired approach of positioning ourselves as a recreation destination coupled with innovation, health and wellness. Once the basics were laid out, we explored the role of government, business and the individual in growing a local economy. In order to inspire a deeper awareness of the inherent challenges in growing an economy and the unique characteristics of the South Shore, the class conducted a SWOTT on our community.
Together they described and discussed our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (internal and external) and local to global trends impacting the economy. I am always impressed when we assemble such a remarkable group of our community’s up-and-coming leaders, and so I thought their work is worthy of being shared with the community at large.
In the strengths category the class chose the following attributes as things we should recognize and share — geographic access; recreation; quality of life; strong community organizations with gender balance among leaders (something they noted is missing in places like Silicon Valley); and, of course, the charm of living in the mountains beside Lake Tahoe in a relatively flat town that makes bicycle travel feasible for many. The class also mentioned the value and appeal that Lake Tahoe Community College and Heavenly Mountain Resort bring to our small-town community.
When the class delved into weaknesses they addressed the perceived disconnect between entities, as well as the negative behavior and perceptions both inside and outside of the community. They were equally disturbed by the ongoing California and Nevada division expressed by long-time residents, which they consider counter-productive to a cohesive community. They also expressed concern over the challenges of living in a seasonal economy that doesn’t provide enough year-round, stable positions; and they recognized the negative impacts caused by external factors such as recessions and weather. Finally, no discussion about South Shore challenges would be complete without the recognition of the need for improved infrastructure.
When it came to identifying opportunities the community could leverage, the group listed the growth of Reno, our myriad entertainment options, collaboration among social services organizations and the prospect to grow location-neutral businesses. They also made note of our year-round recreation, increased connectivity between Tahoe and Reno and the need for succession planning at agencies and organizations, as well as solutions for affordable housing.
As is often the case when this sort of exercise is undertaken, similar topics arose in multiple categories and thus in the threats category we saw topics surface that had been identified by others as opportunities or weaknesses. However, they came up with numerous additional issues that speak to the intelligence and insight of the members of this class. They were concerned with the caliber of our community’s lodging properties and the challenges of improving them due to the expense and complications associated with Tourism Accommodation Unit (TAU) transfers in addition to the associated inflation of property values. The class further exhibited their knowledge of the community by identifying the challenges associated with being a small, rural community and providing infrastructure to a population more often associated with an urban area. Unfortunately, this results in our agencies fighting for federal transportation dollars on an uneven playing field.
When it came to trends, they looked within our community and identified the attention to sustainability, recreation and diversity of primary importance. When they turned their attention to the nation they brought up STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), social media, shifting demographics and the widening income divide. Their “hot topics” list included concerns over drought and recognition of a growing interest in authentic and unique businesses as opposed to cookie-cutter chain stores.
The class then spent time with several panels discussing entrepreneurship in our community and the Tahoe Prosperity Center’s work. They finished the day with an engaging game that led them to each commit to some specific action to further the local economy. Several of the ideas that surfaced included spending their hard-earned dollars locally, attending more public meetings and being more conscious about speaking positively about the community.
I left that day with a sense of optimism that our community will soon be in the hands of these very intelligent, thoughtful and considerate leaders — and for that I am grateful!
For more information on the chamber’s programs, including Leadership Lake Tahoe, please visit http://www.tahoechamber.org.
“B” Gorman, J.D., A.C.E. is the president/CEO of the Tahoe Chamber.
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