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Why Tahoe Is a Rural Capital Desert and How We Can Change

Stacy Caldwell spoke in February at Tahoe Silicon Mountain’s Mountain Minds Monday event about “Why Tahoe Is a Rural Capital Desert and How We Can Change.” Caldwell is the CEO of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, which has been connecting people and opportunities, and generating resources to build a more caring, creative, and effective community for 20 years.

Housing Crisis with a Twist

She spoke to an overflowing room about the issues that plague economic development in rural counties, and what we can do to ensure that our rural community thrives. Truckee’s housing crisis mirrors Western Nevada County’s lack of affordable housing, but with a cruel twist. On paper, there is plenty of housing in Eastern Nevada County, with 33 thousand homes and only 32 thousand residents. But 65% of those homes belong to part-time residents, and sit vacant over 50% of the year, driving up the cost of housing in the region.

Lack of Public Funding

Another issue that Caldwell explained is a lack of access to funding. Public funding tends to go to more populated areas, because it will benefit more people. The large amount of land in the area owned by the Tahoe National Forest makes the region eligible for USDA funding, but that funding skews towards agriculture, not trees.

A Well-Connected Community

Private funding is the next best option, but Caldwell pointed out that the community needs to be ready to absorb that funding. She has a plan for attracting wealth to the region that can be invested in much needed areas like housing. “It begins with a well-connected community,” said Caldwell. Caldwell believes that the community engagement is not only the key to unlocking existing housing, it is what will help Tahoe Truckee attract the funding it needs to thrive.

Caldwell believes that if the community pulls together and reaches out under one identity to the surrounding areas, Tahoe Truckee will be able to attract private investors and philanthropic giving, and advocate for public funding.

Tahoe Truckee as a Social Innovation Hub

She proposed that the area brand itself as a social innovation hub, a community that takes a sustainable approach to achieving positive social and environmental change. To this end, Caldwell announced, the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation and the Mountain Housing Council are joining forces to offer a new, physical space to facilitate social innovation in the region.

Collaborating with Neighboring Regions

“We can’t do it alone,” said Caldwell. “We need to work with neighboring regions. Rural regions have a natural ability to collaborate.” She emphasized that knowing who we are as a community is vital – only then can we effectively position ourselves among neighboring regions and intentionally collaborate with them.

The Nevada County Tech Connection is enthusiastically aligned with Caldwell’s vision. We believe that our tech ecosystem is stronger when we work together, and that if we establish a united identity as a community, we will better able to leverage what is happening in neighboring communities and attract wealth to our rural region. The next Mountain Minds Monday event is happening on March 12th: Running a Global Nonprofit from a Mountain Town. See you there!

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