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Participants at next month’s Nevada Economic Development Conference might be forgiven for tossing in some high-fives along with their handshakes.
After plunging into an economic abyss during the recession, the state has made a remarkable comeback.
Visitors are coming in record numbers. Investments in housing, infrastructure, healthcare, and technology are strong at both ends of the state. And another $4 billion worth of work is set to begin with the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and construction of a stadium for the NFL’s Raiders.
Economic development officials and businesspeople from around the state will come together in Las Vegas for the three-day conference that begins Sept. 11. They will discuss ways to boost the economy by investing in current industries and diversifying into new ones.
Major topics include: agribusiness, economic development, energy, infrastructure and transportation, manufacturing, tourism and gaming, and workforce development.
Nicole Santero with the Las Vegas Global Alliance told KNPR’s State of Nevada that the conference is the only business development and networking event of its kind in the state.
She said it will be centered around the mission of “building a stronger Nevada in a global economy.” Participants will learn about some of Nevada’s emerging business, new opportunities and the trends that will help them expand and compete on a global stage.
Stephen Miller is the director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research. He said all the economic indicators for the state, including those that show how the economy is doing right now and those that show what the future could hold, are doing well.
But like trends in the national economy, there are still some problems the state faces.
“One problem area is productivity growth has not picked up and wages have not picked up as we would like to see them,” Miller said, “Therefore, the growth in the economy is not as we would expect in the past.”
Miller said participation in the economy is down as baby boomers retire and millennials move into the workforce.
In Nevada, specifically, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the economy is the same one the state has struggled with for years.
“The big issue on the plate is how do we diversify our economy,” Miller said.
He said strides have been made in Northern Nevada, but Southern Nevada remains too reliant on hospitality and tourism.
Mark Hauenstein is a board member of the Western Nevada Development District. He said one way the state could diversify its economy would be to help smaller, rural communities attract businesses by emphasizing the quality of life and their unique attributes.
“I think if those communities get the tools they can put a good face forward and make opportunities available and get people into their communities,” he said.
Hauenstein doesn’t see any risk of smaller communities competing with larger population centers because what they offer businesses is so different than what the Reno and Las Vegas areas have to offer.
One business in the forefront of diversification in Nevada is Indoor Farms of America. CEO David Martin told KNPR’s State of Nevada they picked the Silver State as the place to set up shop and improve their unique food production system because if they can show that it works and grow produce like lettuce, which is normally grown in cooler temperatures, in the Mojave Desert they can ship the technology anywhere, which is what it is doing.
Martin said establishing a new industry, like food production, in Southern Nevada will have far reaching consequences beyond fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Most importantly, I think we have opportunities to develop farms that can have an impact on other value-added industries,” he said.
UNLV President Len Jessup and Kerry Bubolz, president of the Vegas Golden Knights are among several speakers.
Find information on the conference schedule here.
Nicole Santero, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance; Stephen Miller, director, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research; David Martin, CEO, Indoor Farms of America; Mark Hauenstein, board member, Western Nevada Development District