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June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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Page 5 Plumas CoOnty Grand Jury Report major share of the county's funding for economic development. According to the Plumas Corporation Director, it is the county's official destination mar- keting organization. Essentially, the staff promotes tourism by marketing Plumas County's tourist events, recreational opportunities, and natural resources all over the country through electronic and print advertising. Their annual report and strategic marketing plan, available on their website, give a comprehensive view of what they do. They are housed in the same building as Plumas Corporation. Chambers of Commerce The county contributes funds each year to the Chambers of Commerce: Chester/Lake Almanor, Eastern Plumas, Indian Valley, and Quincy. These are non-profit dues paying associations. They sup. port local businesses through advertising and the production of local events which draw customers for their members. The Chambers' events bring out-of- towners into the county, thus increasing the levels of hotel and sales tax revenues and generating profits for local businesses. Their focus on supporting local businesses and promoting tourism contributes to the overall economic health of the county. The business- es they support create and sustain local jobs and are an important component of economic development. City of Portola Although there are several economic centers in the county with which We are all familiar, such as Chester, Greenville, Blairsden.Graeagle, and Quincy, the City of Portola is the only incorporated city with its own municipal government. The city is responsible for its own economic development plan. The city's General Plan was completed in 2001 with land use projections valid to 2020. The Planning Commission is currently completing a ten:year update. The City's General Plan includes the Economic Development Element which clearly defmes the city's plan for economic development and includes nine pages of policies and implementation guidelines. The Element includes such implementation measures as: developing an incentive program for industries, preparing an inventory of the local resources to assist in marketing the area to prospective new employers, preparing a tar- get industries study, establishing a set of standards and "quality of life" criteria for attracting new businesses, working more closely with the schools to establish job training and vocational education programs, and appointing an economic development coordinator. The city played the leadership role in the proposed development of the Woodbridge at Portola Project, a 400 acre master planned community with a village center, which will provide up to 945 high, medium, and low den- sity residential units and 60 commercial/mixed use dwellings. The city purchased, prepared and then sold the land for the Woodbridge project to the developer which produced a net profit for the city of approximate- ly $3.8 million. The city also worked diligently to con- vince Nestl6's Bottled Water Company to take advan- tage of the city's five natural springs, located on city- owned property, by situating a bottling plant in Portola. If successful, up to 150 new jobs could be created. Fundin Streams: Plumas County As discussed above, the county accomplishes its econom- ic development programs through local non-profits. The current budget for these programs totals $350,112. The following information explains briefly who gets the money and how it is spent. Plumas Corporation Plumas Corporation received $28,500 for economic development planing and activities administered by the Executive Director. This amount covers 10% of the Executive Director's salary and 20% of an admin- istrative assistant. Non-personnel costs, such as tech- nical assistance from Sierra Business Council, mar- keting through Upstate California EDC, and travel, make up the remaining 70%. Plumas County Visitors Bureau Plumas Corporation received $208,990, which is dedi- cated to tourism activities carried out by one of its divisions, the Plumas County Visitors Bureau. This contribution pays for 2.75 staff positions, print advertising, internet marketing, publications, pro- motional supplies, mailers and general administra- tion services provided by Plumas Corporation at a cost of $36,239 budgeted for the current year. Chambers of Commerce The Chambers of Commerce - Chester/Lake Almanor, Indian Valley, Eastern Plumas and Quincy - each got an equal share of $28,155,50 for fiscal year 2009/2010. The Chambers' income is generated by members' dues, fundraising events, and annual funding from the county. The county funding to these agencies supports part-time paid staff, except for the Chester/Lake Almanor Chamber which has no paid staff, basic oper- ating costs, and some of the many activities that they sponsor. All of the Chambers depend on their dedicat- ed volunteers to help keep costs down. City of Portola The city doesn't have a specific budget for economic development. They support individual projects as needed. They do have a $3.8 million reserve which can be tapped for economic development. Additionally, the City Manager informed the Grand Jury that the city may receive up to $3 million in set- tlement funds from the State for business and rev- enue losses due to the Pike Eradication Project. Some of those funds will be used to repair the eco- nomic damage done to Portola by the project. Revenue In researching how economic development programs might be financed, the Hotel Tax was identified as a related revenue source. Cities and counties have the authority to levy a tax on hotels, inns, tourist homes, motels, or other lodging. Plumas County levies a tax of 9% on tourists when they stay in local lodgings. This tax generated $1,152,277 last year. Monies bud- geted by the county for economic development pro- grams and tourism promotion for the current fiscal year represent 30% of the anticipated Hotel Tax revenue. While the actual revenue from the Hotel Tax-increased 16.8% from fiscal year 2001-2002 to 2008-2009, the amount of funding for tourism promo- tion decreased 20.2% during that same time period. The City of Portola also collects Hotel Tax, but it is not a significant revenue source as they have only one motel within the city limits. Some grant revenues may also become available from time to time for specific projects for the county, the city and the economic centers located throughout the county. Most of those grant dollars are obtained by Plumas Corporation on behalf of the county and by the city manager and city staff on behalf of the city. The grants may fund such projects as landscap- ing downtown areas. Procedure: In researching this matter, the Grand Jury obtained information from the following sources and from their websites: Board of Supervisors/County Administrator's Office/County Planning Department Chambers of Commerce of Chester/Lake Almanor, Eastern Plumas, Indian Valley, and Quincy City of Portola Feather River Bulletin Plumas Corporation/Plumas County Visitors Bureau Documents reviewed included: Chambers of Commerce Budget and Expenditure Reports City of Portola Budget, Audit Report, Economic Development Element, Special Project Reports and Studies Plumas Corporation Audits, Annual Reviews, Budget Requests, Economic Development Plans and Reports, Marketing Plans Plumas County Budgets, General Plan Consultant's Proposal and Contract The Grand Jury interviewed: Chair of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors City Manager of the City of Portola County Administrator of Plumas County Directors and/or Members of Boards of Directors of the Chambers of Commerce Plumas Corporation's Executive Director Conclusion: This recession is a wakeup call for all of us. We need to start today to plan for a successful economic recov- ery. Tomorrow may be too late. It is time for Plumas County and the City of Portola to take the lead in economic development and to form a partnership for the common good of our citizens. No matter where economic development occurs, we will all benefit by increased revenues and taxes to support the services, infrastructure and economy in our county. Is the Food in Plumas County Safe? Specific Issue: The Grand Jury believes that even in troubling eco- nomic times there are certain undeniable rights and safeguards that county government must provide. In addition to fire and police protection, food safe from contamination should be high on the list. If we expect Plumas County to grow and attract both tourism and permanent residents, food safety and consumer protection are crucial elements of county governance that must function well. A recent con- sumer research report found that the health-related costs of food-borne illnesses in the United States totaled $152 billion a year. That did not include costs associated with food recalls or those incurred by the industries involved. Much of these health costs are incurred by emergency room visits, over half of which are supported by taxpayer funds. The Grand Jury believes we must be assured that whether it is