The Board of Supervisors unanimously selected the Sierra Business Council (SBC) to manage the County’s economic development initiatives with a focus on business technical assistance, public-private sector coordination, and expanding internet access countywide.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the urgent need to extend rural broadband to support telecommuting and distance learning,” said Board Chair Heidi Hall. “Internet is an essential aspect of our economic infrastructure and we can no longer afford to wait.”
Two of the contract’s key deliverables include providing technical assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs through SBC’s Small Business Development Center and facilitating “warm handoffs” between new businesses looking to set up shop in Nevada County with the appropriate County staff. SBC intends to set up a satellite office in the Rood Center to maximize coordination, assist in permitting, and advise on multi-jurisdictional infrastructure and development projects.
“Having the Sierra Business Council embedded with the County represents a new direction for us,” said County CEO Alison Lehman. “I’m also very pleased that SBC will be partnering and subcontracting with the Economic Resource Council to continue bringing the County, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Truckee, our private sector and nonprofit leaders to the table and get meaningful results – more high-quality jobs and new economic opportunities.”
While the Economic Resource Council (ERC) held the economic development contract with the County for the past five years, ERC Chair Lisa Swarthout expressed her support for SBC’s new lead role at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, explaining that the two groups will partner under a separate agreement. “The ERC is proud of our longtime efforts to build a resilient and sustainable local economy. Our partnership with SBC will ensure that our business community has access to vital technical assistance and resources.”
“Our goal is to help Nevada County realize its full economic potential through strategic efforts to retain and expand existing and new businesses and create more higher wage jobs. Working together, we will succeed in expanding access to broadband and increase our regional competitiveness,” said Kristin York, Vice President of the Sierra Business Council. Currently, SBC manages the Gold Country Broadband Consortium with the mission to increase digital access, and partners with the County on the Last-Mile Broadband project now underway, which will connect 135 households and 14 businesses to the internet by the end of 2020.
The County’s $165,000 contract may be renewed for a one- or two-year extension in subsequent years.