Economic development groups to coordinate more

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer

    The Plumas County Community Development Commission, essentially made up of the county Board of Supervisors and an at-large community member, seemed to give its informal blessing to a collaboration between Plumas Corporation, Feather River College, The Alliance for Workforce Development and the PCCDC at a Tuesday, May 18 meeting.

    Representatives of the four agencies told the commissioners they wanted to begin meeting monthly, or more often, to share information about projects they are working on.

    Plumas Corporation Executive Director and Feather River College trustee John Sheehan said the concept was for the group to meet informally in the short term and possibly formally later on.

    He said the group would focus on several efforts, including the planned update of the county’s economic development strategy, giving input on the creation of the economic element in the county General Plan revision process, and working out staffing for the group effort.

    He said the other main goal would be better communication between the four entities and other groups that his background material described as those who “work to increase economic vitality.”

    Examples for those groups provided in the background covered a very broad swath from the county government to the  Forest Service and local businesses.

    AWD Director Traci Holt said her agency had funding to provide a meeting place and some support staff for the group effort. She also explained why she thought this collaboration was a good idea.

    “We’re seeing that it’s becoming very, very important that we have one clear message when we’re dealing with our business community.”

    She said she hoped the collaboration would move the partners towards “being able to kind of case manage a business so that when they do come to either one of us, we have a very solid understanding of who does what, what’s available, what resources are out there so that we have a uniform message and we’re all on the same page in terms of delivering that service to a business.”

    PCCDC Executive Director David Keller added, “This is a very useful group because I just can’t keep up with the flood of information and programs that are going on, and to be able to go and get quickly updated on what’s going on with the other entities and understanding what’s out there will be very, very helpful for us.”

    He said much of the groups’ current cooperation was “ad hoc right now just because we’re so busy and we’re all talking to each other, but it’s a disjointed effort.”

    Sheehan said an example of a situation where communication between the entities could lead to better outcomes for businesses was when people realized that one of the byproducts of Simple Fuels’ biodiesel production process could be used as a primer in the Loyalton electric generator, turning one company’s trash into another company’s resource, saving money for both.

    “We’re finding that we have more capabilities than we know of to cooperate with each other, and what’s been missing up to this point is a regular method for us to talk to each other.”

    PCCDC Chairwoman and Quincy Commissioner Lori Simpson said, “Obviously there’s a general feeling our county is dysfunctional” in the area of economic development because new groups have been starting up recently to address issues in that field.

    “I just don’t want this to be a duplication to meet just to meet and nothing gets produced.”

    Keller said that wouldn’t be the case, agreeing there was a lot of activity in economic development, “but it’s disjointed and that makes it inefficient.

    “That’s what I think lots of people in the public see, lots of things are going on but there’s not the kind of cooperation, coordination and communication that needs to happen to really make things much more efficient in trying to make a focused effort, and that’s the attempt of this: to harness the energy that’s out there.”

    Sheehan agreed, “None of us want to set up groups just for the sake of setting them up.”

    Chester Commissioner Sherrie Thrall said, “I think it’s really probably very important that you not be a committee of Plumas County for many reasons, but each of you has your own board of directors and are answerable to those boards.”

    She added that being an informal group would make it easier to have a fluid roster of team members and to react quickly to events without needing to deal with agendas and other formalities.

    As the meeting came to a close, Sheehan said one of the first goals would be to get a list of projects sent out as a mass e-mail to all the parties the group collectively works with to share information and make more connections.

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