Work-and-play week seeks to attract businesses, workers to South Lake Tahoe |

Work-and-play week seeks to attract businesses, workers to South Lake Tahoe

Claire Cudahy
Lara Miller and Aaron Darke are using their expertise in marketing to showcase the work/play lifestyle in South Lake Tahoe in hopes of attracting new businesses and workers to the area.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Two marketing experts have a plan to help diversify the local economy by doing what they do best: promotion.

Lara Miller of Lara Miller PR and Aaron Darke of Darke Marketing are the founders of Mountains Work Week, a scholarship program that brings professionals from outside the basin to South Lake Tahoe for a week that showcases the work/play lifestyle unique to the region.

The goal? To attract businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers.

“Housing is an issue here, but so are the wages. How do you raise wages? Well, you bring in businesses that can pay a competitive wage and industries that can hire local or have on-the-job training,” said Miller, who moved her PR firm from San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe two years ago.

Further, said Darke, freelance and remote workers can contribute to the economy by simply living and spending money here.

“There’s a lot of people who have work like us,” said Darke, who moved his family to South Lake Tahoe from Melbourne, Australia. “They can work remotely, or they are consultants and freelancers, or they can be the head of an agency, but don’t necessarily have to have their people here. What happens then is your wages and your income are coming from outside of town and then are distributed within town, helping with shoulder seasons.”

The idea behind Mountains Work Week, which will take place from May 21-26, is to give professionals a first-hand experience of the perks of living and working in a mountain town.

“It’s not going to be a sale presentation of South Lake,” said Miller.

Instead, the 25 applicants selected for the work week will see it for themselves: mountain biking on their lunch break, stand-up paddleboarding after work, and nights around the fire at the Coachman Hotel.

“People are going to be working their normal jobs and living as close as we can get it to the South Lake Tahoe lifestyle,” added Miller.

The week will be filled with other activities like a Tahoe Regional Young Professionals (TRYP) mixer, a welcome speech from Mayor Austin Sass, and a talk from climber, BASE jumper and multi-business owner Chris McNamara.

For people who are interested, there will be information on home prices and potential locations for business and office space.

Except for food and drinks, the entire week is sponsored, including bus transportation from San Francisco.

Mountain Works Week partnered with Tahoe Chamber CEO Craig Schmidt, TRYP executive director Devin Middlebrook, Novus Select director Corey Rich, and Tahoe Prosperity Center CEO Heidi Hill Drum to kick off the first installment of what will be a bi-annual event.

“The mission of the Tahoe Prosperity Center is to strengthen prosperity and the quality of life for residents who live here, and I think this is an excellent way to do it,” said Hill Drum.

“Tourism for some folks is certainly a way to make a living here, but most of those jobs are low-wage and seasonal in nature. So if we can expand year-round, higher-wage jobs in the tech industry by attracting companies here to relocate to have the quality of life that we offer here for their employees, I think that is exactly what we want to do.”

It’s a program that Hill Drum hopes will expand to include other parts of the basin, too.

“It’s a great homegrown effort to do business recruitment in Tahoe,” added Schmidt. “It’s not a sales pitch; it’s just to show potential business owners and entrepreneurs the quality of life and support system that we have in the community to bring new businesses here. It’s a really, really good strategy.”

Professionals have until May 1 to apply for the inaugural Mountains Work Week. So far, three applicants have been accepted.

“We have the senior engineer of the [Genographic] Project for IBM, a founder of a PR company, and a designer for the U.S. Digital Service,” said Miller.

Ultimately, Miller and Darke hope the week will help change the message around South Lake Tahoe.

“We’ve got all this advertising about how you can come ski and party, and that’s kind of the default brand of the town, purely for the nature of the tourism industry,” said Darke. “Therefore people don’t necessarily view the brand of Tahoe as somewhere you can live with your family and have a really awesome quality of life.”

But if all goes according to plan, that won’t be the case for long.

UPDATE: The story has bee updated to reflect current accommodations and activities. Previous plans to have people work at Tahoe Mountain Lab and hear from physicist, educator and Tahoe Mountain Lab co-founder Jamie Orr fell through due to space and timing issues.

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