The members of the panel, moderated by Ray Hagar, a business reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal, briefly discussed how Obama’s administration would impact each of their industries, then followed up with questions from Hagar and the audience.
Ray Bacon, of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, said manufacturers predict dramatic change, both foreign and domestic.
“One thing that is a real indicator of what’s going on is in China, between 2,500 and 3,500 plants have closed in the six months, some because of the Olympics and have never reopened,” Bacon said. “The (manufacturing) economy of the U.S. and China are very strongly linked.”
Bacon said whether or not Obama’s administration will move the nation forward or backward remains to be seen, but either way the outcome will touch Nevada. In particular, he said, Nevada could be affected by the budget crisis being experienced by its neighbor to the west.
“I heard one guy say, ‘Change is going to happen; progress is optional,’ ” Bacon said. “California currently is in a malaise. ... Fundamentally, Nevada has cancer. California will be right at the edge of bankruptcy. All sizes of businesses (in Nevada) depend on being next door to the largest manufacturing economy in the world.”
Bacon said employers can talk about candidates in the workplace, but they’re not allowed to endorse certain candidates over others. He also said there wasn’t much discussion among employers and employees about how the vote would ultimately affect their businesses.
“What does the election mean?” said Paul Enos of the Nevada Motor Transport Association. “It means more environmental regulations, more things happening, more unions having a lot more power than they did.”
Mike Dillon, acting executive director of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada, said the volatile market that has driven down housing is having a spillover effect on transit and retail.
“There’s been a lot of discussion to address the current financial crisis, where consumer confidence is low,” Dillon said. “We need to provide incentives that would provide demands for housing.”
Dillon said state Sen. Bill Raggio, who won re-election Tuesday, and Gov. Jim Gibbons have been or will be key players in the next legislative session for necessary tax increases to jumpstart the economy.
Enos said truckers are especially affected during this economic hardship. The industry that delivers everything from food and clothing to furniture, Enos said, is making drastic cuts. Nationwide, 1,000 trucking companies have closed and in Nevada, about 10 percent of trucks registered in the state have “dropped off,” he said.
But government spending to revitalize these industries in need, Bacon said, is lacking or at least unknown the majority of the time.
“Government works in a strange way because it’s dealing with public money and its perception is because they’re dealing with public money, it needs to open and transparent,” Bacon said. “And the reality is, it isn’t transparent and damn few people are. It’s got to go through both houses (of Congress) and get a ‘Mother, may I?’ ”
Cheryl Blomstrom, who represented the National Federation of Independent Businesses at the breakfast, said she worries about the new players on the political scene, which could be a detriment to the relationship between businesses and government.
“We have eight new Assembly people, three new Senators, one person is moving from the Assembly to the Senate and had a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, somebody who already knows how that process works, but there is a steep, steep learning curve for the Assembly people,” Blomstrom said.
Besides the effects of political decisions on businesses, panelists also fielded questions on education. The failure of the passage of WCSD-1, the school ballot question that would have raised the county’s sales tax by one-quarter percent and the sales tax by one-half percent, also raised a question by an audience member about why Nevada consistently votes against funding for education, which the business community has worked to support.
Blomstrom, who moved from Washoe County to Douglas County, said it could be that the county simply didn’t see how the money could improve the schools.
“We live in arguably the reddest county and we passed (a rollover bond program) by almost 60 percent when we presented a good case for what we needed to do with the schools,” Blomstrom said.
She said she believed voting for education would come when the campaign for it is done right and there’s accountability as to how the money is spent.
Bacon also addressed the universities and colleges, criticizing Chancellor Jim Rogers of the Nevada System of Higher Education for not making himself available to the businesses who could help provide resources for the education of potential workers.
“That’s pretty much an insult,” Bacon said. “There aren’t enough resources to provide everything we need. In 2006 we had 11 Ph.D.s in philosophy. Do you have any idea how many jobs there are for Ph.D. in philosophy? Probably not a hell of a lot.”