Partnerships to prosperity and #TahoeTogether (Opinion)
The Tahoe Prosperity Center wants the entire Lake Tahoe region to thrive, not just one community or segment of our economy. We are a triple bottom line organization for a reason: in order for residents and businesses to thrive, our environment must be protected, and our community prioritized.
Our economy, environment, and community must all work together to create a balanced region. We’ve seen what out of balance looks like in the past decade, and it has seriously underserved our local workforce. Since the last recession, our economy has increased from 42% dependent on tourism to 62% dependent. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how terrible that is for our most vulnerable.
Low-wage, tourism dependent workers and businesses suffer the most when tourists can’t visit Lake Tahoe. We want to work together to reverse this trend, expand our local serving businesses again, and bring more balance to our economy, environment and community. Because, let’s be honest, while our economy was good for some, it certainly was not good for all. Ensuring equitable economic recovery moving forward is what will allow our region to thrive long-term.
There is no “silver bullet” solution, no single answer to the challenges we face, but expanding Tahoe’s other economic clusters of health and wellness, sustainable recreation, and environmental innovation is one of our best options for success.
For example, an environmentally innovative industry that would work well in Lake Tahoe is the solar industry. With the city of South Lake Tahoe’s recent push to get to 100% renewable and new solar installation on public buildings, a solar installation certificate training program could retrain seasonal workers into higher wage solar jobs and help locals secure year-round employment.
Expanding our recreation industry and linking bike trails to town centers improves our community and further connects the lake, towns, and mountains. Establishing reliable broadband creates more telehealth options at our local hospitals which, in turn, creates new job opportunities.
What do each of these ideas have in common? Partnerships, collaboration, and working together as one Lake Tahoe. Our recently completed Housing Action Plan outlines 20 near-term strategies that will help improve the housing situation for local residents. It took collaboration and communication between many government, business, and non-profit partners to get there. Look for a new regular housing column in this paper about all the partnership work happening in housing.
In addition, as part of a partnership with ADVANCE and Lake Tahoe Community College, we created Tahoe Career Connect (tahoecareerconnect.org) to connect students and local workers with higher wage job opportunities and the education needed to get there. Check it out if you need a new or higher paying job.
Immediately after the pandemic, we started the #TahoeTogether campaign on Facebook to encourage locals to share more positive stories and to highlight the best of our community. This has in turn created three new partnerships. The first brought together all three Tahoe-area community foundations who have set up COVID-19 relief funds at the lake and have already helped thousands in our community. The second was Tahoe Together 2020 apparel sales to support local non-profit organizations during this crisis. And the third, which just wrapped up, was the Tahoe Together 19 Miler: a remote exercise event where all proceeds go to these same three community foundations so they can keep supporting our community.
The Tahoe Prosperity Center looks forward to facilitating a regional economic recovery and resiliency plan for Lake Tahoe. We have the incredible opportunity to create a more resilient, diverse economy as we navigate this recovery.
Tourism will always play an important role in our economy, but we don’t need to go through another pandemic to realize that we are currently much too dependent on our visitors. We all have an opportunity to work together to positively transform Tahoe for all who live, work and play here.
We sincerely hope you will share the power of your ideas and innovation so we can get there together, as one Lake Tahoe.
Now get outside, order food from your favorite local restaurant, and please wear your mask so we don’t have to shut down again.
Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin, triple bottom line organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe’s communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and has lived in South Lake Tahoe for 24 years.
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