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Northern Nevada's economic diversification helped soften the impact of the pandemic. Can Southern Nevada further diversify its economy?

Reno, Downtown Reno
AP Photo/Scott Sonner
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A pedestrian walks beneath the iconic arch as traffic passes on Virginia Street in downtown Reno.

Residents of Northern and Southern Nevada often discuss the differences between the two regions. It’s generally hotter in Las Vegas. For decades, state lawmakers in the south claimed the state’s investment in the north outshined the south. 

Then there are the employment numbers. In the midst of the pandemic in November 2020, Las Vegas’ jobless rate was 6.4 percent. North Las Vegas recorded a 7.6 percent unemployment rate. Reno’s was 2.9 percent.

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), attributes Reno's lower numbers to a 10-year economic development and diversification effort within Washoe County that has linked a variety of business, community and political interests.

EDAWN's five-year strategic plan outlined the need for innovation throughout the state. It pointed to "immature mentor networks," "a lack of early-stage funding," "under-utilized tools and programs," and "weak connections to research institutions."

"The biggest factor was (we were) ready for change,"  Kazmierski said. "This community understood gaming and tourism wasn't going to be our future. We didn't want the (recessionary) dips, which meant bringing in employers who are stable."

 

 

Mike Kazmierski, President & CEO, Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.