EDAWN beefs up effort to identify prospects

A year after it rolled out a plan to attract better-paying, higher-skilled industry to the region, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is putting more muscle into a key component of the initiative.

EDAWN executives say 13 companies in industries targeted by its recruiters have either expanded or launched new operations in the region since the Target 2010 plan was rolled out with much fanfare last December.

Those 13 companies have brought 643 new jobs and first-year economic impact estimated by EDAWN to total $166.6 million. The addition of some 300 employees at Microsoft's licensing operation in Reno accounted for nearly half the economic impact.

But EDAWN also acknowledges that a slowing economy means its staff and volunteers are working harder to generate leads.

"It's not super-duper rosy," says Chuck Alvey, president and chief executive officer of EDAWN. "We're still getting inbound calls, but it's not as robust as it was."

To generate more leads, EDAWN is adding more volunteers to its industry advisor effort.

That project tapped people in the community to act as rainmakers to attract business in the industries that EDAWN's plan had targeted.

For instance, Dale Rogers, director of the Center for Logistics management at the University of Nevada, Reno, agreed to head the effort to attract more high-end logistics companies.

Other targeted industries include advanced manufacturing, business and financial services, clean energy, life sciences and software. Each segment is lead by an industry advisor.

Now EDAWN will put more energy into that effort through its recruitment of volunteers who can help generate leads about companies that are looking to expand or relocate. The volunteers also can provide contact information to get EDAWN staffers in the doors of targeted companies.

"We're putting it all together," says Ken Pierson, the agency's director of business development.

Once the industry groups are in full operation, Pierson says he hopes EDAWN will have 1,000 potential leads about four times the current number.

And from those leads, EDAWN has established a goal for its current fiscal year of attracting top-flight companies that generate $50 million in economic impact. Top-flight companies as defined by EDAWN are those that pay above-average wages, provide good benefits and bring other environmental and social benefits to the region.

Since EDAWN's fiscal year began on July 1, the region has landed top-tier companies that generate some $33 million in economic impact. Those companies account for about half the economic development activity on EDAWN's books.

By 2012, EDAWN's goal is to generate $200 million a year in high-quality economic development, and the agency wants the region to be identified by the national media as a hot spot in at least one of the industries it has targeted.

Even as they're beefing up their recruitment efforts, EDAWN executives said budget cuts led to the elimination of two plans to track the success of their efforts.

The agency has given up a plan to track the social and environmental benefits of new companies after the state Legislature trimmed EDAWN's budget by $875,000 a year.

Another casualty of the budget cutting was a plan to bring Angelos Angelou, the Texas consultant who led the Target 2010 planning, back to town once a year to reported on progress toward economic development goals.

But Alvey said last week that EDAWN has made good progress on elements of the plan that call for development of a business brand for the region "Greater Reno-Tahoe: Welcome to Can Do" was rolled out last spring as well as stepped up efforts to encourage young professionals and entrepreneurs to relocate in the area.


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