The Economic Resource Council wants people to know about Nevada County.
Operating on the business model of “working together we can do more,” the ERC’s Economic Summit on Oct. 25 is flush with upbeat prospects for a robust recovery as the pandemic begins to recede with news of fewer deaths and hospitalizations.
With this in mind, ERC’s Executive Director Gil Mathew elaborated on the economic potential for the county. According to a North/ Far North Center of Excellence executive summary, the county experienced a somewhat sluggish job growth in particular sectors. However, it demonstrated that health care, accommodations and food service had significant growth over the past 10 years.
“Here is a classic case of where a change in the type of employment versus just stagnation is the more complete story,” said Mathew. “While overall rate of employment is steady, the sectors enjoying growth are offset by the sectors losing ground. Factor into that the quantity of work being done by non-humans — ATMs, online purchasing, online DMV renewals — continues to grow and that trend is likely to carry on.”
In addition, retail cannabis is a significant growth sector, and in this county it’s had a high growth rate, Mathew said. Even though some sectors, like manufacturing, tech, arts entertainment and recreation have lost jobs over the last 10 years, shifts in demand can account for this.
“As an example, with greater medical capability and an aging population, there is a greater demand of health care,” he said. “And as reported by Zagat’s (2018 survey), which showed that Americans on average eat out 5.8 times per week, it is attributed partly to the internet. Since the dishes on social media look more enticing than what the average person could probably make, it makes sense more people are choosing to eat in restaurants. The more demand for dining out means more demand for labor.”
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Regarding what accounts for the above trend, he noted diversity in the workforce and particular demands in sectors are mutually exclusive notions. While fewer people now work on their own cars, there is currently a high demand in construction.
“But just 10 years ago, the supply of workforce in that area outstripped demand by twice,” he recalled. “A few other areas of increased demand over the next 10 years are personal care, up 21%, and health care support, up 23.1%.”
Despite some of its obvious advantages, the county loses some of its best and brightest to the nearby cities of Sacramento and Reno, but the supply and demand function are working on this aspect, Mathew said.
“Nevada County traditionally has a somewhat lower rate of pay for similar jobs in urban areas,” he said. “Add to that a portion of those commuters had their employment outside the county before, then moved here and the cost of a commute is the price they pay for other quality of life issues. I would like to see a real study done on this.”
While some may point to a current tepid job growth rate, statistics do not always tell a complete story, as it is important to know what is included in raw data and what is excluded, Mathew said.
“We all know that after the recession of 2008 to 2010, many people dropped out of the workforce,” he said. “Some in favor of shadow work, such as landscape maintenance for cash. The unemployment rate isn’t an accurate measure of joblessness simply because it doesn’t consider everyone who doesn’t have a job.”
The real unemployment rate takes unemployed and marginally attached workers, including discouraged workers, into consideration, as well as unemployed people.
The county’s large population of retirees is sometime pointed to as one reason why more major companies decline to locate here or open branch operations. Mathew said that a large percentage of the over 55 age group does not have much to do with a company’s desire to relocate or open a branch here. The increase of that age group is, he believes, more attributable to the immigration of older citizens who have retired here for the quality of life issues.
Robin Davies, CEO of the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, said there is always excellent information at the summit that she can apply to the chamber’s operations.
“COVID required us to reevaluate our methodology of doing business, especially for those deemed nonessential,” she said.”We lost some young entrepreneurs who were not able to sustain through COVID. But after one and a half years we’ve gained some perspective, and it will be interesting to see what (keynote speaker) Chris Thornberg will address in his presentation.”
The post-pandemic recovery will not be one size fits all, Davies said. As what is appropriate for the metropolitan areas will not necessarily pertain to rural communities.
“Nevada County is a destination community,” said Davies. “You have to travel up the road or up the hill, but we’re definitely worth finding.”
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at [email protected]