“This is truly an exciting day,” Sandoval said at the Center for Molecular Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The plan, called “Moving Nevada Forward: A Plan for Excellence in Economic Development 2012-2014,” calls for forming regional development authorities throughout the state.
In northern Nevada, Sparks would be grouped into the Greater Tahoe region, to be directed by Mike Kazmierski, president of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN).
The state’s plan, Sandoval said, is regional in nature. It will play a role by advocating for jobs, businesses, education for a future workforce and private enterprise. The state will help businesses create jobs and provide fresh opportunities for every region of the state, he said.
The plan also alludes to attracting businesses to relocate to the state, but that only typically comprises 5 to 7 percent of job creation.
“Too many Nevadans are struggling,” Sandoval told attendees of Tuesday’s news conference. “We must create 50,000 jobs by 2014. We must work together. Nothing is too small. Nevadans have a long history of working together. We have one of the most attractive business climates in the United States. It’s up to us to capitalize on those facts.”
The three-year plan targets sectors for growth that include those identified in a 2011 national report by the Brookings Institute that focused on Nevada’s economic strengths and challenges.
Nevada’s current economic picture remains bleak. The latest state numbers report 12.6 percent unemployment, 1 in 16 houses are in foreclosure and 58 percent of homeowners in the state owe more on their mortgages than the properties are worth.
However, the Silver State is expected to see some reprieve this year, according to the Lee Business School at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ Center for Business and Economic Research. A variety of measures show that the state economic activity began a slow recovery in 2011 and it should continue to see improvement through 2013, the school reported in January.
“The gains will be stronger in the second half of 2012 than in the first, and the gains in 2013 will be stronger than in 2012,” the school reported.
Historically, the state has relied mainly on gaming, mining and agriculture to fuel its economic engines. The Brookings Report called for unifying the state, which the new state plan hopes to accomplish, regionalizing and diversifying through innovation and global engagement.
“Nevada’s core strength for economic development has been and will remain its overall business-friendly environment, including low taxes, relatively low costs, light regulation and ease of business start-up/permitting,” the report stated. “Key challenges include: spotty economic planning and cooperation; a weak innovation and technology commercialization enterprise; and substantial workforce skills shortfalls.”
The state plan calls for targeting tourism, gaming and entertainment, clean energy, health and medical services, aerospace, mining and manufacturing, business IT, logistics and operations, and other promising possibilities such as water technology, agriculture and financial enterprises.
The Clean Energy Project issued a statement following the release of the state’s economic plan.
“We are pleased this report calls for study of business models for energy exports and effective ways to partner with our neighboring states on this opportunity,” said Lydia Ball, executive director for the Clean Energy Project. “Done correctly, regional energy export will create jobs, stabilize our energy bills, and reduce our dependence on out-of-state energy by investing in Nevada’s resources.”
One tactic the state will use is its catalyst fund. The $10 million appropriation is intended to fund accelerated job creation with allocations, grants, loans and loan guarantees for projects that align with the state plan for 18 months, beginning in 2012.
Another component of the plan addresses creating knowledge-based industries through partnerships with higher education. The state Office of Economic Development will work with the Department of Education and other state offices to develop coursework to prepare students for industry sectors that will form the base of the state’s future economy, according to the economic plan.
Steven Hill, director of the Office of Economic Development, was instrumental in the plan’s development. At Tuesday’s announcement, he said he believes Nevada’s future will mirror its past success, but the new plan talks about how the economy will be different. The state plan goes into depth about taking steps to measure successes, he said.
The global outreach that is inherently built into the gaming industry is an asset in the state’s tourism sector, for instance.
“We need to learn how to capitalize on that moving forward,” Hill said. “The governor is committed to lead those efforts. We need to take this plan and start to work.”
The plan is intended not as a prescription, but written as a living document, meant as a way to bring regions together, Hill said. It sets out ways to measure progress with benchmarks and venues for public input. The state office of Economic Development will regularly track and report progress.
The state plan can be found online at www.diversifynevada.com/state_plan.
The governor said Nevada’s economic development plan is different because no other state has a plan like it.
“This is going to be hard work,” Sandoval said. “I’m confident we’re going to succeed. This is going to be a historical day.”