Does the ERC need adult supervision? Oui

Our economic future?

Our economic future?

The Nevada County Economic Resource Council has gone through five executive directors in eight years, but don’t think for a moment the organization lacks continuity, direction or focus.

“Au contraire,” proclaimed board Chairman Robert Bergman after the departure of the most recent executive director, Robert Trent, after just seven months.

“I think it has strengthened us,” he told The Union. “It required more of us. The whole team has to step up for us to do as well or better.”

The idea that an organization can thrive despite constant changes in leadership would be a hard sell in any business school or corporate boardroom in America. Not even the county is signing up for Bergman’s fantasy.

A staff report to the county Board of Supervisors last June said the ERC’s effort to promote local tourism is “suffering a number of setbacks resulting in the ERC having four executive directors in the last two years…The past changes at the helm were unforeseen, disrupted progress and created some inconsistencies in the work flow.”

Certainly, an executive director doesn’t lack for direction. The ERC’s home page lists seven members of its executive committee, 20 on the board of directors (international energy behemoth Exxon Mobil manages with 14), and four investor/partners.

Nobody who’s any good wants that many people looking over his shoulder, and that assumes the members can actually agree on what they want. “Moving forward, it’s really difficult to find the level of person who everybody would really like in an executive director role…”, Bergman said at the ERC’s most recent meeting.

Meanwhile, the ERC lurches along on its mission to spur economic development in Nevada County. The ERC’s home page lists no staff members, but does have a phone number where a prospective business can leave a message, and an email address where it can write. Presumably, somebody will get back to them.

The organization has been given the mission of managing the county’s $240,000 tourism program, despite concerns expressed to the supervisors. You can question the expenditure of taxpayer dollars to create even more low-paying jobs than we have now, but we should at least be confident we’re getting our money’s worth. County Executive Officer Rick Haffey told The Union, “The county will not micromanage the administrative affairs of that nonprofit…”

The county doesn’t have to micromanage the ERC’s affairs–there are enough people doing that already–but the county does have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure tax money is spent efficiently and wisely.

And if there’s any outfit around here that needs adult supervision, it’s the ERC.

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