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Tahoe Prosperity Center addressing regional economic concerns

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com
Cars roll through the South Shore's Casino Corridor this week. Tahoe Prosperity Center volunteers will be surveying local businesses this week in an effort to address workforce and economic needs.
Sebastian Foltz / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — With a recent economics report indicating a staggeringly low average income for residents of the South Shore and increasingly challenging housing opportunities, the need for change appears to be clear. Just what those changes could be remains to be seen, however. It’s something the nonprofit Tahoe Prosperity Center hopes to address through a continued effort to study economic, tourism and community trends in the region. The group recently released its “Measuring for Prosperity Report,” which includes a comprehensive study of the Tahoe Basin with regard to employment, population demographics, home costs and other key indicators.

Among group initiatives, center director Heidi Hill Drum said they plan to host a basin-wide economic summit this fall to discuss action plans related to concerns regarding employment, affordable housing and other issues that have arisen through their report.

“As the boomers retire and Reno/Sparks generates more than 50,000 new jobs, we are concerned with understanding all relevant factors in planning for the next decade,” Tahoe South Shore Chamber president B Gorman said of the center’s continued efforts to assess concerns.

The current workforce leaving or having to commute from the Carson Valley remains a significant issue, along with the potential for Reno to draw from the regional workforce in favor of better work opportunities and lower housing costs in and around the city.

The information collected from the surveys will be used to develop strategies for action moving forward.

“It’s a really tough place to make a living,” Hill Drum said of Tahoe, citing findings that the average income to cost-of-housing disparity in the basin is higher than San Francisco — due to an average resident income below $25,000.

“We want to make that easier,” she said.

Among concerns, the group’s report found that the region lost an estimated 6,500 jobs since 2008 and has shown less of a rebound from the recession compared to other areas with tourism focused economies.

Their assessment of tourism occupancy tax revenue showed that between 2010 and 2014 California revenue as a whole grew 9 percent. Colorado grew 7.6 percent, but the Tahoe Basin only grew by 5.5 percent. Low snow years could potentially account for some of the gap, further emphasizing a need for the regional economy to have less of a focus on winter sports.

“We have to work on these issues together,” Hill Drum said, describing Tahoe Prosperity Center’s function as an inter-agency liaison moving forward. “We look to be the leader to facilitate these conversations about what we can do to turn things around.”

More information and a link to the survey can be found at http://www.tahoeprosperity.org.