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Tuolumne County Future At Stake

Recently there has been a lot of discussion regarding economic development in Tuolumne County. It is the firm belief of the Tuolumne County Business Council that improving our economy is necessary in order to sustain the quality of life in our area. We also care about our foothill environment and are in no way advocating for business and development at all costs, however, we also believe that it is necessary to work together to protect our existing employment base and create new jobs. Our members are interested in striking a meaningful balance between protection of our area’s natural resources and the need to grow our local economy.

The plain fact is that our county has been struggling economically for decades. The recent recession, federal shutdown, catastrophic rim fire and the ongoing drought have had additional impacts. These adverse effects will be felt longer in our community than many other places in California due to our county’s small size and reliance on a limited diversity of business and industry. The Rim fire is a disastrous example of what occurs when over regulation and litigation, by seemingly well intended groups, adversely impacts proper forest management and results in unintended consequences.

The adverse effects are reflected in the declining economic health indicators for Tuolumne County that include population, jobs, school enrollment, housing starts, business expansion and new business start-ups. Over the last ten years our population has decreased because of more out- migration and deaths than in-migration and births. This is because the majority of our population now includes individuals who are seniors and less of our population is made up families with children. These numbers reflect the decline of our industries such as construction, logging, mining and other industries that tend to have employees with larger families. The migration out of the county has increased significantly in recent years due to the lagging local and national economy. This means that more jobs and businesses are needed to retain and attract more individuals and families to Tuolumne County.

The economic trends and outward migration are not going to turn around over night but by working to balance economic development with applicable environmental issues and mitigation we can change the negative tide to secure a better future. Economic Development means creating new jobs by helping to enhance and expand existing businesses and industry as well as attracting new businesses and industry to move here. This requires we look carefully at applying appropriate environmental mitigation and removing unnecessary or overly onerous regulations which make it difficult for Tuolumne County to attract new companies and development that can help our economy.

When commercial, industrial and residential projects are built in our county they contribute to our overall economic development and provide needed funding to our local city and county government through fees, property taxes and sales tax. Every dollar raised through economic development means less of a need to increase taxes or special assessments to provide basic local services.

For example: if Tuolumne County attracts a desirable business that needs 40,000 sq. feet of commercial space and generates $3,000,000 in annual sales our local government would receive approximately $25,175 to $31,575 in property tax revenue and $37,500 in sales tax revenue each year.

If there were a housing developer who wanted to develop a 20 home neighborhood on an infill parcel that sells homes for $300,000, that neighborhood development would generate approximately $26,016 to $32,644 in property tax to local government on a yearly basis.

Both the commercial and residential projects would also pay fees for planning and site development review, building permits and mitigation. They would also generate substantial revenue through material purchases and the jobs created (construction and other services) as well as revenue to local businesses for purchases during construction and on an ongoing basis after occupancy.   -Source: Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority

Our quality of life in the Sierra Foothills is directly tied to the quality of our economy. Economic development is the lifeblood for a healthy future for our community. Many of us will not enjoy our foothill environment if our kids have no future here and we have to move away for lack of jobs. Our community needs to work on viable solutions that allows us to expand and enhance our community job base, reduce governmental obstacles to job creation, encourage private/public partnerships and support businesses here in Tuolumne County. This requires that we not make decisions based on only one criterion (e.g., environmental impacts). We all should evaluate multiple criteria (e.g., development cost and affordability, economic factors, safety, education, etc.) and acknowledge that tradeoffs must be made.

It will take a lot of community involvement to reverse the factors contributing to Tuolumne County’s economic decline. We invite you all to learn more about the issues driving our economy, the proposed projects aimed at improving our economy and quality of life and join the effort to be a supporter of change for the better. One of the important issues to be informed and involved with is with the update of the County General Plan. This is the document that will guide County growth and development over the next 25 years. The updates are based on Rincon Consultants work to evaluate the General Plan for revisions necessary to implement the County Blueprint Planning Project preferred growth scenario.

The General Plan includes seven Mandatory Elements –

  • Land Use
  • Circulation
  • Housing
  • Conservation
  • Noise
  • Safety
  • Public Facilities

Plus seven Optional Elements

  • Recreation
  • Cultural Resources Management
  • Economic Development
  • Agricultural Resources
  • Air Quality
  • Community Identity
  • *New: Water
  • *New: Healthy Communities

A better understanding and involvement with the policies, regulations and the issues that need to be addressed to facilitate economic development could greatly reduce contentious opposition and litigation when viable projects are proposed.

The Tuolumne Business Council is a diverse organization represented by health care, recreation and tourism, natural resources, technology sector, banking and title work, planning and economic development (Board of Realtors, developers, propane suppliers), and communications (radio and print media), gaming, lodging, insurance, accounting, utilities, property management and others. We work to recommend and support responsible policy and programs at the City, County and State level and to modify and eliminate existing and proposed programs that adversely impact our rural area.

A large part of our focus is working to balance, streamline and simplify the very cumbersome levels of government regulation that stifle positive economic operations and development while preserving and enhancing the quality of life we all desire in the Sierra Foothills. To find out more, please visit http://www.tcbusinesscouncil.com/.

Written by Darrell Slocum – Tuolumne County Business Council