“We must be united as a region in order to be successful,” said Sparks Mayor Geno Martini.
“It’s no longer Reno, Sparks, Washoe County. It’s a regional matter,” said Reno Mayor Bob Cashell.
“The effort needs to expand beyond Washoe County,” said Washoe County Commission Chairman John Breternitz.
But making this happen is another challenge all together, and officials know they have their work cut out for them if they want to attract new businesses to the region and create new jobs.
Signs are positive, however, after several economic development initiatives gained bipartisan support during the 2011 state legislative session.
For example, lawmakers created the Office of Economic Development (OED), a cabinet level position within Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration. In addition, a $10 million catalyst fund was established to incentivize businesses to relocate to Nevada.
Though important first steps, “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel as we move forward,” said Steven Hill, executive director of the OED.
Nevertheless, big ideas are the name of the game.
Hill said that one grand experiment might entail developing competitive grants to spur innovation and job creation within the private sector.
Though Hill believes 2011 was a pivot point for economic development across the Silver State, he said 2012 will be remembered for the actionable steps taken to improve the northern Nevada economy.
If Mike Kazmierski has his way, this will indeed come to pass.
The new president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Nevada (EDAWN), Kazmierski said he is ready to do whatever it takes to turn the region’s economy around.
“We’re selling this community because we believe in it,” he said.
There is a pressing sense of urgency among government officials to make the changes that will jumpstart a recovery.
“We need to make decisions fast,” said Sparks City Manager Shaun Carey. “Time is not on our side.”
Carey added that it is crucial that government, the private sector and educational institutions come together to solve the economic ailments facing the region.
At the end of the conference, public officials and business leaders signed their names to a statement of intent, a gesture of support for an outline of economic development goals.
They include creating formal and informal structures and processes to pursue economic development effectively and collaboratively on a regional basis; cooperation on the preparation of a regional economic development plan to respond to the economic challenges and opportunities facing northwestern Nevada; and developing regional and public-private partnerships and responses to Assembly Bill 449 and to work in close cooperation with the State of Nevada.
The statement of intent is “non-binding on any governmental agency and is solely for the purpose of advancing a coordinated regional response to the economic challenges and opportunities facing northwestern Nevada. All binding commitments on the part of government agencies shall be made by and through subsequent actions of the governing bodies of agencies participating in this initiative.”
Now that the ReCharge summit has concluded, the real work begins.
“It’s our hope that we can look back on this event as the beginning of leading us out of the recession,” Martini said.