Monday’s update on regional economic development efforts was given during a special meeting of members of the Reno and Sparks city councils, Washoe County School District board of trustees and Washoe County commissioners.
An outline of these future goals will be released today in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan for Nevada’s economic development and diversification strategy, called “Moving Nevada Forward: A Plan for Excellence and Economic Development 2012-2014.” The governor’s plan is set to be released at 9 a.m. at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The state plan doesn’t designate how many regional agencies there will be, said state economic development spokesman Dave Burns. The state’s philosophy when drafting the plan was to foster an environment where regions would be given the tools to create a business-friendly atmosphere, instead of having government create jobs and place businesses throughout the state.
“The idea is that people know best at the local level what they want to do with their economies,” Burns said. “What works for one region might not work for another.”
The impetus for creating the state plan was a report issued by the Brookings Institute in November 2011. The report outlined challenges of Nevada’s economy and pointed to several areas in the economy that the state could strengthen.
Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said the Brookings Report calls for the state’s economy to the regionally based. The report identifies industries with the highest potential for expansion as part of an “economic diversification effort” and suggests policy options that will enable the state, its regions and the private sector to work “more effectively to build a more unified, regionally vibrant and diversified Nevada.”
“We will look at developing the economy along the same lines,” Hill told the group of elected leaders Monday.
Each economic region will have a director to lead its effort, Hill said. Reno, Sparks and surrounding counties and cities will form a unified regional development agency, but it will be split into two sub-agencies. Washoe County, northern Storey County and parts of Fernley will make up the Greater Reno/Tahoe region, which likely will be headed by Mike Kazmierski, president of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN). Carson City, Douglas County, southern Storey County, Lyon County and parts of Fernley will make up the Sierra Region, to be directed by Robert Hooper of the Northern Nevada Development Authority.
Kasmierski told leaders Monday that EDAWN was hiring a facilitator to pull a plan together for the region.
“It takes a team,” Kasmierski said. “This community is ready to do something.”
Kasmierski said EDAWN will use an existing economic model, “Target 2010,” and work to create a regional jobs team.
Target 2010 was presented by EDAWN in February 2008. EDAWN stated that in order to attract new businesses and expand existing industries that pay high wages, the region must overcome a tightening labor market, rising costs of living coupled with below average wages, a declining percentage of young professional workers, a limited technology workforce and natural resource constraints such as water supply and air quality.
“We’ve got a pretty good plan,” Kasmierski said. “We’ll take whatever we have, use that base, set out those metrics, measure the results and at the end of the day you will achieve success or you won’t.”
From a state perspective, Hill said the Target 2010 plan was a good starting base, but did not include logistics, such as warehousing and distribution.
“(Those) are areas that the Reno-Tahoe area is strong in and has assets that can be capitalized on,” Hill said.
Target 2010 leads the discussion on economic development, Hill said, and the state’s economic plan will evolve over time.
“We will update (the plan) on an annual basis,” Hill said. “What we’re talking about is where we are now and what we see over the next year or three.”
The new state economic development plan arrives at a time when Nevada remains in dire conditions. The latest state numbers report 12.6 percent unemployment, 1 in 16 houses are in foreclosure and 58 percent of homeowners owe more on their mortgages than the properties are worth.
Hill said he hopes the economic development plan will help get Nevada moving in the right direction.
“We certainly understand that the economy has been tough. We have a very high unemployment rate, a lot of people need jobs,” Hill said. “It would be great to have a gale wind blow through. If there is anything we can do, we hope that this regional plan and its development can help get that going.”