Tamara Wallace, Executive Director
South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce

Tamara WallaceI am always surprised when a City, County, State or other jurisdictions, like TRPA, refer to certain projects as “Economic Development.” It shows a collective misunderstanding of what Economic Development is. True Economic Development has a very specific definition.

The definition of Economic Development for a community or area is the creation of “primary jobs” and influx of new wealth. Primary Jobs create new wealth, secondary jobs simply re-circulate wealth. One example of a primary job is manufacturing. The area where the job is located doesn’t usually coincide to where the customer of the product lives. Thus, a manufactured product brings new wealth to a community through the payment of wages as well as taxes. Tourism is South Lake Tahoe’s main source of “primary jobs.”

Most projects touted as Economic Development are really expanding a “secondary jobs” base. A retail store that serves mostly locals falls into this category.  Don’t get me wrong, secondary jobs are important.  Once new wealth is brought into a community, secondary jobs re-circulate that money up to seven (7) times. However, new wealth is required to support all the “secondary jobs” as well as the businesses that create them.

When there is a lack of primary jobs in a community, secondary jobs have no choice but to compete for the same limited dollars. Having an Economic Development program that addresses this is key. Governmental agencies and politicians, although well meaning in their attempts at Economic Development, often miss the mark by not understanding that new wealth is required to sustain a community.

South Lake Tahoe is in desperate need of a coordinated Economic Development effort. Many agencies and organizations take part in these efforts, but in order to be effective, we need to combine our activities as well as get on the same page so we are all sending the same message to business. There are three main tenets to a successful Economic Development/jobs creation program:  1) Recruitment of new primary jobs, 2) Retention of existing jobs and most importantly, 3) Expansion of existing businesses that generate primary jobs.

Every time a new business comes to a community (whether it creates primary or secondary jobs) a big deal is made. Articles are written, ribbons are cut and the community takes notice. This is good…jobs are being created and our quality of life improves. However, we should also take the time to applaud the existing business that expands.  Approximately 80% of new jobs come from expansion of existing businesses in a community. These businesses continue to make investments in the community through job creation, their physical plant, home purchases, school attendance and in many other ways too numerous to mention. These small/medium business owners support our community through monetary and raffle/auction items to sports teams and nonprofits, they coach our youth sports and work to make South Lake Tahoe a better place to live. Existing businesses deserve our community’s support too!

The South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce is working to encourage our community’s Economic Development efforts. We are advocating for the business community to the local governmental agencies, encouraging them to reduce fees and streamline processes. This will make business attraction and expansion easier and more cost effective.  We will be working with other organizations to coordinate our Economic Development activities.

For more information about our activities or to join the South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, please contact Tamara Wallace, Executive Director. (530) 542-5060 or tami_wallace@hotmail.com.