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Diversification became the buzz word for Nevada after the Recession, because the state wanted an economy that could survive if gaming failed.
That led to another buzzword in Nevada, tech. And that's come to mean everything from tiny startups in downtown Las Vegas to mega-projects like the Tesla plant in Reno.
Now, UNLV is opening a business park named after former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, with the hope it will improve diversification in Southern Nevada with a lot more tech.
Zach Miles is the associate VP of economic development for the UNLV Research Foundation, which is partnering with the Gardner Company to create the park.
The 122-acre park is at Durango Drive and 215 in the valley's southwest.
He said the tech park will give high-tech companies around the world a chance to "rub elbows" with researchers and students at the university to "translate innovations into life-changing products and services."
Miles said top companies like Pfizer, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and Tesla are the type of companies they are looking to attract to the park.
While some people still think of the glitz of the Strip when they think of Las Vegas, he said many are now thinking about the low-tax environment for businesses, the growing population base and the tech companies that already call Nevada home.
“I think the state and the community has responded to make this a very favorable location to locate for high-tech companies,” Miles said.
Under the agreement, the Gardner Company will build, own and manage the buildings at the tech park but it will pay UNLV to lease the land.
Dan Stewart is the VP of development for Gardner Company. He agrees that there is a bit of a 'chicken or the egg' problem when it comes to these kinds of projects.
“It’s got to start somewhere," he said, "We think this first building and people will see that it’s happening. And these tech companies, if we can just get one or two, I think the word will get out there.”
Miles agrees that a physical building will help with the word of mouth.
Betsy Fretwell is the senior VP for Switch Cities, which is an initiative started by the data center company Switch.
She said there is a vibrant technology scene going on in Nevada thanks to companies like Switch and others. She sees the tech park as another important step.
“We see great hope coming out of the tech park,” she said, “It gives an opportunity I think for like-minded companies to co-locate, which allows them to work on joint projects together.”
Fretwell believes that Las Vegas is small enough to make incredible things happen. She pointed out that great imaginations and hard work created our oasis in the desert in the first place and the same thing can happen with high tech.
“We can really take incredible technology infrastructure that’s in place with both Switch and our partner companies, take the incredible vision of many of our government leaders and create an environment where the businesses Dan [Stewart] is talking about attracting to this business park can actually succeed,” she said.
Miles saw a similar mix of efforts by businesses, universities, and governments work to bring high-tech companies to what is known as the Silicon Slopes in Utah.
Betsy Fretwell, senior VP, Switch Cities; Zach Miles, associate VP of economic development, UNLV Research Foundation; Dan Stewart, VP of development, Gardner Company