Tahoe Prosperity Center: Expanding Tahoe’s economy
February 27, 2017
Most of you are probably happy with all this snow we've had lately. Despite the recent rain, more out of town skiers and snowboarders want to be here to enjoy this winter in Tahoe.
You may have noticed longer waits at the grocery stores or longer lift lines at the ski resorts. Or the additional traffic, as well. While these are certainly inconvenient for those of us who live here year-round, it also is what fuels our tourism based economy.
Even if you do not work in a tourism-related industry, another third of our economy is "related services" that also are impacted by the highs and lows of visitation to the Lake Tahoe region.
Lake Tahoe will always be a tourist destination. Just look around (which many of us forget to do since we see it every day) at the white mountains, blue lake and green forests.
Sometimes in the spring, when my kids are playing baseball, I fail to notice how spectacular the mountains are just behind the outfield. Then I look up as the ball is hit out there and I'm reminded, "wow — I live here." And for those of us fortunate enough to call this spectacular place home, I hope you take a few moments (while you are waiting in traffic) to look around and appreciate this place and be reminded why so many visitors want to be here, too.
At the Tahoe Prosperity Center we feel it is critical to focus energy, resources and time into expanding opportunities in the non-tourism related parts of our economy. By adding jobs and businesses in the other sectors of our regional economy (health and wellness and environmental innovation) we grow our overall economy, which becomes less dependent on tourism.
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This is important because, as we have been reminded this winter, the ups and downs of visitation directly impact the bottom line for many businesses. The road closures of U.S. 50 on both the California and Nevada side are a stark reminder of factors outside our control that impact visitation — and the bottom line.
Fortunately there are many examples of economic expansion in these non-tourism economic sectors. Barton Health is expanding with its new Robert Maloff Center of Excellence, and with it new jobs will be created, new opportunities for related businesses and, hopefully, new families moving to our community.
Much like the Tesla-effect in Reno, the expansion at Barton and the new Maloff University Center at Lake Tahoe Community College will see residual benefits to our area.
The recent growth of co-working and incubator/accelerator spaces in our region (Tahoe Mountain Lab, the Lift, Tahoe Mill and Elevate Blue) are expanding opportunities for many who want to "test the waters" of living in Tahoe. They also are helping to set up more of an entrepreneurial economy — something that benefits our region tremendously — by adding higher-wage job opportunities and new businesses.
The potential downside, and the area that the Tahoe Prosperity Center is focusing on as part of our "workforce Tahoe" project, is area wages. Tahoe's average wages are much lower than the surrounding regions and also lower when compared to other mountain resort communities.
We have already seen workforce shortages at many area businesses because similar jobs pay more in Reno. We do not want to see our workers leaving to go to Reno for higher-wage jobs and more affordable housing when we can and should be doing everything to keep those jobs (and residents) here in our community.
It is going to be a busy few months while our roads and restaurants remain packed.
At the Tahoe Prosperity Center we strive to work collaboratively with the entire community to create a thriving and robust economy that helps to offset changes in how the climate impacts our mountain towns.
And if we are successful then there will be plenty of opportunities for local residents and newcomers who decide that living in Lake Tahoe is a dream come true.
Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO 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 21-year resident. Heidi and her husband John are happily raising their two boys in Lake Tahoe.