Tahoe Prosperity Center’s goal: Economic diversification | nnbw.com

Tahoe Prosperity Center’s goal: Economic diversification

Roger Diez

There’s a new player in economic development in northern Nevada and northeastern California. The Tahoe Prosperity Center (TPC) has burst onto the scene, chartered as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit last year.

The TPC grew out of the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan developed in 2010.

TPC chair Tom Greene and Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce president Betty “B” Gorman said that the organization is the result of an unprecedented coalition of government, private, and philanthropic stakeholders in the Tahoe Basin.

The federal Economic Development Agency has also provided matching funds due to a fortuitous set of circumstances. Proponents of the plan invited the assistant secretary of the EDA to meet. Instead, he sent the deputy secretary, who was a California native and had attended UNR. He was sympathetic to the plight of the basin and the solutions that were proposed, and directed the EDA’s regional representative to help with funding.

Initial discussions about the changing economic environment in the Basin began in 2007, with buy-in from the government entities (Douglas and Washoe Counties in Nevada, El Dorado and Placer Counties in California, and the City of South Lake Tahoe) coming in 2009.

By then the recession, coupled with declining gaming revenues, had driven unemployment in the Basin to the 14-16 percent level, and caused significant population loss. In addition, family incomes had declined to the point that over 5 percent of high school lunches were subsidized.

With that kind of economic climate, it is difficult to attract capital, so that is another goal of the TPC.

“We see the TPC as a landing pad to attract both monetary and intellectual capital to the region,” said Greene.

Realizing that gaming tourism would never return to former levels due to the slow recovery and the growth of tribal casinos in California, the TPC concluded that economic diversity was a key component to its success.

The organization took a page from other economic development entities, and has identified three development clusters that they want to attract:

* Environmental innovation, which includes regional renewable energy systems, a green-business program, and a business incubator and investment fund.

* Tourism and visitor services, with a focus on outdoor activities, geotourism, environmental quality, and recreational opportunities.

* Health and wellness, specializing in sports and fitness training as well as orthopedic and oncology centers of excellence.

The TPC also coordinates closely with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency because both organizations are committed to maintaining a sustainable environment for the Tahoe Basin.

The process for developing strategies to achieve TPC’s goals was addressed at a recent retreat for the 21 regional leaders who comprise the board of directors. The goal of the retreat was to turn the organization’s mission statement into a business plan outline.

Four committees were formed to address TPC’s major goals: a marketing/media committee; a funding committee; a regional cluster committee; and an executive committee. Each has its own charter, but all will work closely to coordinate efforts.

In addition to the original stakeholders, Gorman said that the TPC will interact with the Northern Nevada Development Authority, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, and Nevada’s Office of Economic Development as well as California’s Sierra Economic Development Corporation to build stronger economic development throughout the region.

Greene stated that the purpose of the TPC is not to build an organization, but to improve the economy of the entire Tahoe Basin. Greene went on to say that the success of the TPC’s efforts will be benchmarked and tracked by a number of indicators, including higher graduation rates from the region’s schools and an improved standard of living for all residents of the basin.

As the TPC moves into its implementation phase, organizers are currently seeking a chief executive officer to drive the efforts to revitalize the economic climate of the Tahoe Basin. This would be an excellent opportunity for an individual with start-up experience, who is skilled in fund development, strategic implementation, and partnership building, organizers say.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center is truly unprecedented in that its economic development efforts cross city, state, and county lines as well as incorporating the private sector, its backers say.

They say TPC brings together a diverse group of people and organizations, all working toward a common goal. The focus on the environment and the identified development clusters takes advantage of the Tahoe Basin’s natural attributes and is designed to attract the type of investment and development that will sustain rather than lessen the region’s beauty.