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January 25, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Building the future

Economic development should be strategic, continued focus for state

Nevada 3.0: Economic development

As the Legislature considers several proposals to improve the economy, the Sun's editorial board weighs in on the state's direction in this piece.

The Sun also askesSteve Hill, the executive director of the Governor's Office for Economic Development, a few questions about the state's progress. And CSN President Dr. Michael Richards writes about his views of the community college's role. The Sun's

This is all part of the Sun's Nevada 3.0 project, which is looking at issues confronting the state and ways to move forward.

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In every recent economic downturn, Nevadans have talked about diversifying the economy. It would typically be a short-lived discussion. When the economy rebounded, people moved on.

But that changed with the Great Recession. Once hailed as “bullet-proof,” the state’s economy was found to be all too mortal. And sure enough, state leaders began preaching economic development. But this time, they seem to be taking the challenge seriously.

Two years ago, Gov. Brian Sandoval and the state Legislature overhauled Nevada’s push to bring more jobs and diversify the economy. Since then, the governor has pledged to create 50,000 jobs by the end of his term in 2014, and Nevada’s economy appears to be well on its way toward achieving that.

That’s a good start, but economic development is more than just landing a certain number of jobs. For Nevada, it’s going to be about diversifying the economy, which has long been dependent on two industries: gaming and mining. And diversifying is more complex than just adding more industries. It will take improving the state’s education system, bolstering infrastructure and providing a higher quality of life.

The state’s effort has been guided by a comprehensive report by the Brookings Institution and SRI International, which smartly looked at the state’s strengths and targeted several industries to develop. And with the new Catalyst Fund, which offers incentives for businesses to come here or expand, Nevada officials have worked to lure companies that they hope will anchor specific clusters of businesses, including renewable energy, information technology and aerospace.

Some critics have complained that’s “picking winners and losers,” but it’s simply common sense. Nevada has long been touted as a business-friendly state with low taxes, but that on its own hasn’t been enough. The state should be strategic, take advantage of the opportunities that exist and build on what already exists.

In a relatively short time, the state effort has shown good progress. Steve Hill, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, says the recent agreement between the state, Desert Research Institute and IBM to create a center of excellence to study water will hopefully spur industry development here. He also pointed to work on battery technology for solar energy projects and said that manufacturing could be centered here as a result.

Those types of projects show great potential toward improving the state’s economic future. But it will take more than that.

For example, companies need a qualified workforce, and Nevada’s education system has a poor reputation. Education has become one of the focal points of the current Legislature, and lawmakers must do all they can to improve the state’s schools and align the higher education system with key industries.

As part of that, the Legislature should put money in the Knowledge Fund, which would provide money to help take inventions and ideas developed in the universities into the market. Programs like that across the country have helped boost economies, but in an only-in-Nevada moment, the fund was created last session but left unfunded.

As well, state leaders should look at the state’s infrastructure and how it affects the economy. One key project is the proposed Interstate 11 to Phoenix, which would provide a wide thoroughfare for commerce and tourists. Transportation experts say the interstate would be an important route for goods coming into ports in Mexico and California. Nevada should do its part to build the interstate.

Overall, state officials have made progress toward building a new and better economy, but there’s still more to do. After witnessing the damage of the Great Recession, Nevada can’t lose its zeal for economic development.

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  1. Nevada's pitch to diversify our economy has been "Low Taxes and Plenty of Unmet Needs". We can build fake pyramids, Eiffel Towers, New York skyscrapers, and Italian canals and get away with at least some of the fantasy. But we can't cover our schools with neon lights and make them something they're not. Until we have a populace that truly believes in education and will invest in ourselves, we can't expect others to invest in us.

  2. I am going out on a (lonely) limb here and say infrastructure is more important than education at this time. Any type of the industries listed are going to hire people who have been educated at higher learning centers then NV has to offer, and with that these folks will want quality of life. Every great commerce has been built on transportation, IE, rivers, ports, Interstate highways. The states were divided up and boundaries fought over based on this simple principle. NV was after gold and silver and so its' boundaries were established for that. Changing to another industry is going to require the infrastructure first. Everything has to be shipped in, then shipped out so the logistics are huge. Energy seems to be the only thing that could really work on a grand scale right now, but I am not sure how many jobs it could produce. If you really analyze it, there is not enough land now in the Las Vegas Valley to support a big manufacturing industry, so aerospace is out.
    If we had really good roads maybe a Las Vegas could be a shipping hub...maybe...right now can't drive to LA easy so that won't happen any time soon..

  3. It really puzzled me, to move to a state that has incredible wealth in natural resources, to be SO POOR in its infrastructure. This speaks about the century plus old stranglehold the MINING industry has had on Nevada, its Lawmakers, and the Nevada Constitution. There is NO future until this is addressed.

    Nevada has a problem with retaining its college graduates, and experienced workforce. You can build all the attractions, roads, and magnificant structures, but when a state does not place any value in its own population, you have a real problem.

    So, as all the major industries in this state continue to have and experience RECORD PROFITS while the very people whose labors and sacrifice made those profits happen are neglected, the future remains bleak and hopelessness prevails with hard working Nevadans struggling to meet their monthly bills with shrinking paychecks. They haven't seen any reward for making their bosses filthy rich.

    When it comes to talk about "building the future," let's be clear, we are only talking about those here in Nevada that actually have one.

    Something to think about.
    Blessings and Peace,

  4. Today, governments create jobs by shifting responsibilities from one to another rather than by forcing necessary reciprocation!