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While Governor 'Wills' Biz To Life In Reno, Las Vegas Gets Pennies

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Illustration/Natalie Cullen

The state's capitol is Carson City but is the state's capital there as well?

Governor Brian Sandoval cast himself as the voice of reason between northern and southern Nevada last week at the UNLV campus.

About a year ago the governor got state politicians to fashion some billion dollars in tax breaks for electric car maker Tesla. Tesla will then build a $5 billion battery plant in Reno.

Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West, said the governor is essentially "willing" business into existence in northern Nevada. Meanwhile, the amount of government support southern Nevada gets is, by comparison, pennies.

Indeed, last week Sandoval flew to the UNLV campus to announce that Tesla would be granting $1 million to the university to study battery technology. That's spread over five years, or about $200,000 a year.

Lang told KNPR's State of Nevada that he doesn't know much about the deal, but "it doesn't seem like much."

Why so much government support for Reno-area business? Lang said it's because northern Nevada isn't a necessarily an inviting place for new businesses move.

"Leveraging Las Vegas' assets may just be an easier lift in terms of the money," Lang explained.

Support comes from

He said Southern Nevada's tourist economy is the economic engine but doesn't get the money from the state. 

"When is that economy going to get investments that allow us to build out the infrastructure that our rivals are building?" he asked.

He pointed to Orlando as an example of a city and Orange County, Florida as an example of a county that have been able to take tourist money and reinvest it to bring in even more tourists.

"It is allowed to be invested into the infrastructure that allows even greater economic output," he said.

Lang believes Southern Nevada is losing ground to Orlando in conventions and conferences, which is a significant part of Las Vegas' economy. 

He argued that money Southern Nevada is generating should be reinvested into assets like a light rail system from McCarran International Airport, improved traffic flow, a better convention center and a state-of-the-art stadium. 

"We have all the things that would be part of a tourist carve out, a tourist economy carve out, for infrastructure investment," he said. "We just haven't done that."

Lang doesn't believe the gaming and tourism industries need to be taxed more, he believes the money collected from the industries in Southern Nevada needs to stay in Southern Nevada, not directed to say schools in Elko.

Guests

Robert Lang, Brookings Mountain West executive director

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