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Nevada Economic Development: Technology, Logistics And Hemp

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Wikimedia Commons/Famartin

"Welcome to Nevada" sign along southbound Interstate 15 entering Clark County, Nevada from Mohave County, Arizona

Hallmark doesn’t have a card, but this is Economic Development Week, when economic development agencies share their success stories with the public.

In Nevada, that can mean tech in Reno and logistics in Las Vegas.

In the rural areas, the Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority is touting a $50 million support and service center in Elko for heavy equipment company Komatsu as well as an industrial hemp production facility near Ely.

"Northeastern Nevada is in the middle of everywhere," Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority Executive Director Sheldon Mudd told KNPR's State of Nevada. "That is one of the misconceptions. We're actually halfway between all of the major metropolitan areas."

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Mudd pointed out that Northeastern Nevada is within a half-a-day drive of Salt Lake City, Reno, Boise, and Las Vegas along with being only a full-day drive from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Another advantage to the area is small government, he said. Mudd said that many areas have just a single layer of government to deal with when getting licensing and permitting for projects.

Plus, with no traffic and very little crime, the lifestyle of the rural areas are appealing for many people.

Mudd said two sectors his agency is trying to attract is aerospace and defense because both of those industries require a vast amount of land, which rural Nevada has in abundance. 

With all the things going for the area, there is a problem - population.

"Finding a skilled workforce can be difficult in the area," Mudd said, "We have more projects. We have more jobs than we have people and that's one of the areas where we're trying to find a solution for."

The authority is co-sponsoring an opportunity fair next week to bring people to the area to look around and see what jobs are available. 

While the development agency in Nevada's northeastern region is gaining steam, the president and CEO of Southern Nevada's economic development agency said the economy in Southern Nevada is booming.

"It is a combination of new companies and growth of existing firms that is really driving Southern Nevada and really the state to become the economic development success story of the country," CEO Jonas Peterson said.

He said that Nevada is leading the U.S. in job and population growth. 

Peterson said the state is seeing a boom in logistics and manufacturing jobs. In fact, he said there would soon be a big announcement coming up.

"I think at the next GOED board meeting in June, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a significant manufacturing company that is up for approval there," he said, "This is going to continue. We need to build the workforce so that we have people prepared for those jobs of the future."

Mudd agreed. He said education is a priority in Northeastern Nevada. He said that while there might be a perception that the area is full of "dumb cowboys and miners" the reality is that most jobs at ranches and mines must be filled by highly skilled workers.

To that end, there are workforce training programs but there just isn't enough of them. 

"We have the programs in place. We just need to make them bigger," Mudd said, "We could double our graduates in welding, in electricians, in millwrights and so forth, we could double that and there would still be a need." 

Peterson said when LVGEA talks to companies about moving to Southern Nevada or expanding here their focus is always education and a skilled workforce.

"We believe that education and economic development are intrinsically linked," he said, "They really can't be separated."

Peterson goes even further he said to build a strong education system the state must also build a strong economic development system.

One way LVGEA would like to link those to areas is through sports medicine. Peterson said with an NFL team coming to Las Vegas and the growth of our valley's health care system Southern Nevada could be a leader like it is with gaming.

"We think that Southern Nevada really does have a chance to become the sports and entertainment capital of the world that creates a lot of opportunities," he said, "We really have an opportunity to become a leader in sports medicine innovation and research."

Peterson said layering the efforts of UNLV's new medical school and other medical schools in the region with teams like the Raiders and the Golden Knights could build the area into a sports medicine knowledge center.

Many of the development authorities in the state were created during the Great Recession as a way to diversify the state's economy. 

While the economy is doing well now, everyone understands economic downturns happen sooner or later.

Mudd said his region of the state is ready for a downturn because it is usually more insulated from ups and downs.

"Usually, national recessions in our area do us quite well because then the gold prices go up," he said, "We don't like to say we're immune from recession but we're definitely insulated from them as a result of that."

As for Southern Nevada, Peterson said while the economy is booming is when the region should be getting ready for the storm ahead.

"We're doing well today, but that means now is the time to prepare for that next recession," he said, "Make sure our economic development programs are strong that is when we can get the greatest competitive advantage whenever that next recession does happen."

Guests

Sheldon Mudd, executive director, Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority; Jonas Peterson, president and CEO, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance

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