SPARKS — This might read like an understatement for the ages, but 2011 wasn’t too good to the business world, particularly at its intersection with government. Partisan bickering in Washington, instability in the state’s tax policy and deficits at the county and municipal level have inhibited an economic recovery and kept the country mired in stagnation.
But for every 2011, there is a 2012.
So I turned to three of Nevada’s most attuned business and entrepreneurial advocates to reflect on the year that was and look ahead to the next 12 months.
Tray Abney, director of government relations for The Chamber
Tray Abney knows well the inner workings of state government, and what he sees isn’t always pretty.
But he is hopeful about the prospects for business growth in 2012. And for Abney, it all starts in Carson City.
“It will be interesting to see if we can bring some balance to (the state Legislature) by having a Republican Senate to act as a counterbalance to the Democratic Assembly,” Abney said. “The business community is definitely interested in seeing more of a focus on the success of the private sector and job providers instead of a private and public sector labor union agenda.”
Though an economic recovery has yet to take hold in Nevada, Abney points to positive signs for the future.
“I think that most people and business owners are cautiously optimistic about the New Year, as sales tax and other returns are showing some modest growth,” he said. “I think there will remain a high level of uncertainty, however, as Congress continues its bickering and back-and-forth and refuses to simplify the tax code. At the same time, there is an effort in (Nevada) to impose a new margins tax on businesses. Neither of these things are helpful for economic development or job growth.”
On a brighter note, Abney anticipates that the completion of road improvement projects along U.S. 395 and Interstate 80 “will be great for the movement of commerce and people in our region.”
Moreover, he said, “Sparks’ continual effort to ensure ‘It’s Happening Here’ will bring new vitality and energy and dollars to the region.”
Jim Nelson, executive director of the Nevada Association of
For someone like Jim Nelson, regulations are a bane to business growth. Sure, he knows some are necessary and important, but Nelson thinks other regulations hogtie innovation and expansion under the guise of promoting workers’ rights.
“I think I’ll continue to watch and see how aggressive the federal government gets in their enforcement efforts against business,” Nelson said. “I’ll also be interested to see how much the National Labor Relations Board is able to accomplish in their efforts to make it easier for unions to organize. The courts are involved now, so 2012 should prove interesting in this area.”
If the government can resist its meddling tendencies, Nelson said, “I think we are going to see a slight upward trend in hiring.”
Of course, 2012 is an election year, which means lame-duck politics will likely stifle new regulations and inhibit action on dismantling others.
“With this being an election year, there will obviously be lots of rhetoric on both sides,” Nelson said. “I doubt much legislatively will get done, but you never know.”
CPA and host of ‘Bosma on Business’ on News Talk
Mike Bosma might one day decide to enter the political fray and run for elected office — it’s on his bucket list — but for now he’s content to poke, prod and push the debate along.
A staunch business advocate, Bosma believes it is entrepreneurs who will lead the country out of the throes of the recession.
Bosma said 2011 marked the frontline in a battle between business and government. Rather than embracing and celebrating companies, Bosma laments the political rhetoric targeting industries for “not paying their fair share.”
“Businesses tend to duck and hide” anytime government comes calling, he said. “They squash entrepreneurs.”
Bosma said he doesn’t foresee much political change in 2012, largely because it is a presidential election year, and therefore expects tax policy at every level to remain unstable. The consequence is that businesses sit on their cash rather than investing it in new hiring and expansion, he added.
Nevada is often marketed as a business friendly state because of its tax policy, but Bosma argues that this is pure fiction.
“It’s common knowledge that Nevada’s tax system is broken,” he said. “Right now, we have a perception problem.”
As an example, Bosma cites the fact that it costs six times as much for a business to incorporate in Nevada as it does in Wyoming.
Moreover, a new public initiative, which includes the creation of an economic development office within Gov. Brian Sandoval’s cabinet, misses the mark, Bosma said.
“I’m not a fan of government investing in business,” he said.
Furthermore, the state’s economic development initiatives fail to consider that Nevada has two distinct business brands — northern and southern —and keeping the two separate is critical, Bosma said.
“We can no longer afford to be the best kept secret,” he added.