Shifting the Economic Paradigm

Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan

The Client

The Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan is a unique bi-state regional economic cluster strategy led by the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan Steering Committee. The Steering Committee includes representatives of the Basin's six jurisdictions (the City of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado and Placer counties in California, and Carson City, Douglas and Washoe counties in Nevada), TahoeChamber.Org and North Shore Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, the Western Nevada Development District, Lake Tahoe College and Sierra Nevada College, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), and the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation.

These partners joined together to address the Basin's long-term economic decline, increasing poverty, blight and deteriorating infrastructure within the context of the region's unique environmental and regulatory conditions, and geographic and political fragmentation. They leveraged funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Department of Commerce, to develop the Basin's first regional economic strategy – a prosperity plan organized around current and emerging economic clusters of opportunity.

In a national search, the Steering Committee chose ADE and its subconsultant CSU Chico, Center for Economic Development (CED) for this challenging project based on several factors: deep expertise with economic cluster analysis and strategy development; prior and current experience working in the region; expertise in rural economic development and sustainable development; analytic and policy expertise in the critical foundations for cluster success such as workforce, infrastructure and financing; and broad-based networks and agency partnerships in the broader region. The Western Nevada Development District serves as the fiscal administrator for the project.

Our Approach

Working closely with the Steering Committee and on-site Project Manager, ADE and CED developed a multi-layered and highly interactive planning process to create the Prosperity Plan. ADE and CED's analytic, networking and engagement skills helped bring hundreds of residents and organizations together to develop a data-driven bottom up economic prosperity strategy, and to identify champions, partners and resources for implementation.

This approach blended in-depth qualitative and quantitative data to create an “environmental scan” that identified key issues, challenges and opportunities, in concert with a detailed economic analysis of overall socioeconomic trends and economic cluster performance and potential. This information guided the selection of three priority economic clusters for the Prosperity Plan – tourism and visitor services, health and wellness, and environmental innovation.

ADE used a proactive cluster engagement process to design and facilitate meetings and ongoing outreach activities involving diverse stakeholders in cluster work group to develop targeted cluster action plans. Cluster participants recognized that a shift in the economic paradigm was required: moving from gaming as the key driver, to an economy based on preserving and enhancing the unparalleled assets of the Lake, the mountains and other vital natural resources. The resulting framework for the Prosperity Plan is based on sustainability solutions and a commitment to the Three E's – economic vitality, environmental quality, and social equity.

ADE's approach modeled the commitment for a truly regional and collaborative process, wherein meetings and activities were held around the Basin, and broader regional, state and federal partners were engaged to participate in the development of the Prosperity Plan.

The Process

The project started in January 2010 and the first phase concluded in November 2010. ADE conducted: more than 60 stakeholder interviews in California and Nevada; extensive review of existing economic research, community plans and economic development strategies, policy documents, and new funding and policy initiatives; economic base and cluster analyses; four community meetings held in the North and South Shores; seven cluster meetings; and an Economic Forum that brought together state and federal partners.

Throughout the research and planning process, ADE identified and engaged cluster participants and organizations through numerous meetings and extensive outreach and follow up. These activities were complemented by monthly Steering Committee meetings; meetings with resource partners; and ongoing outreach to institutional partners located out of the Basin.

Through this process, ADE and CED documented the importance of the Basin's economy to both California and Nevada – approximately $4.7 billion; the high levels of business-to-business “leakage” outside of the Basin; and the many challenges facing the people and communities of the Basin as well as the environment. The planning process resulted in a new vision for the Basin, to be a “world class center of innovation around green tourism, green building, and sustainable design, scientific research and applications for environmental resource renewal and management, renewable energies, and health and wellness – to be the sustainability powerhouse for the nation.”

The cluster work groups developed action plans to achieve this Vision. The process also provided guidance for overarching governance and resource considerations to build longer-term leadership and capacity to implement the Prosperity Plan.

The Outcomes

The Prosperity Plan is the Tahoe's Basin first comprehensive regional economic strategy. The Plan has raised the awareness of the challenging economic conditions facing the region, the impact of the deteriorating built environment on the Lake and other natural resources, and the need for a new economic paradigm emphasizing environmental redevelopment and stewardship. It repositions the Tahoe Basin as an environmentally sustainable destination and test bed for environmental innovation. All six jurisdictions have committed resources for the next phase of the process, and several new institutional partners are providing expertise, capacity, fiscal and other resources to support the Plan's implementation.

The development of the Plan involved hundreds of business and community leaders, elected officials, academia, institutions and residents who are committed to sustainability and regional success. The planning process provided networking opportunities across clusters and has accelerated ongoing activities, increased information sharing and resource leveraging, and catalyzed emerging initiatives.

The Prosperity plan is aligned with TRPA's Regional Plan Update, the new Sustainable Communities project funded by the California Strategic Growth Council, the Douglas County Economic Vitality Plan, and the Sierra Nevada College Sustainable Campus Initiative, among other efforts. The Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan was presented at the Tahoe Environmental Summit, the first time an economic focus was included in the Summit, which has been hosted since 1997 by California's and Nevada's senators.

See the link for the Prosperity Plan, cluster and other meeting summaries and presentations, and news articles: www.tahoeprosperity.org.