What we're doing to bring high-quality economic growth

The trustees of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada raised the economic development bar nearly two years ago. Aiming for better quality vs. just more economic impact, they asked us to focus on companies that truly enhance the quality of life here. A thorough analysis called Target2010 followed that charge. (www.edawn.org/business/target2010-project/reports)

The recommendations were solid and numerous. In close consultation with a regional steering committee and our trustees, the EDAWN staff sorted the priorities into three categories: "advocated," initiatives EDAWN supports such as education and transportation; "convened," initiatives that EDAWN facilitates in discussion with key leaders for a desired outcome such as our working closely with the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce to launch the Reno Tahoe Young Professionals; and then the four initiatives EDAWN "owned" and focused our efforts this past year:

* Recruit and expand companies in key business sectors;

* Execute a national public relations plan to improve the image of the Greater Reno-Tahoe region among company decision makers in key industries;

* Develop a marketing plan aimed at skilled professionals, company decision makers and entrepreneurs in key industry targets in selected markets; and

* Coordinate regional efforts to recruit those skilled professionals through a Workforce Network.

What follows is an outline of what we are doing and who is doing it in case you would like to participate. With current economic conditions your help is critically important.

Business Development: EDAWN's mission is focused on great customer service the team is a sales-oriented, relationship-driven group. While they assist virtually all companies, they are focused on six industries the Target2010 analysis identified as holding the most promise for our region: clean energy technology, software, advanced logistics, business and financial services, advanced manufacturing and life sciences. Our team of three business development managers, working with Director of Business Development Ken Pierson, are building extensive company lead lists. Each sector has a professional industry advisor and an advisory group composed of professionals within that industry. Advisory groups and members of our board help us prioritize the best of the leads and narrow them through a funnel that identifies companies that meet our high-yield, sustainable criteria (wages, benefits, community contributions, environmental impact and headquarters status), may be planning expansion activity, and have a local, personal connection at that company to establish a relationship.

It will take a great number of raw leads to filter down to companies with which we can establish that relationship and develop them into a prospect that we will work to convert to client status and ultimately get a positive decision to relocate, expand or start-up here in the Greater Reno-Tahoe region. Personal connections are critical to our success, and virtually anyone in our region may be able to help us make that initial contact. Our 2012 goal, set by the EDAWN board, is to average $200 million per year in high-yield economic impact.

National Public Relations: As we attempt to make connections with key company executives, the image of Greater Reno-Tahoe as a "Can Do" place with a strong business climate is vital. Research indicates that a large number of corporate decision makers and professionals across the United States don't know about us as a place to do business and live.

While a bit disappointing, that is an opportunity for us to create a positive image of GRT. The media is among the top sources they rely on to form such opinions. We have hired Development Counselors International, that works closely with EDAWN's Director of Public Relations Julie Ardito to target key national media outlets to generate stories about the region's business climate. Initially, the focus is on the clean energy technology industry, combined with software and skilled professionals. Stories being pitched include Reno's downtown revitalization, regional diversification, key Sparks and other regional developments, and the strength of our geothermal and other clean energy resources. Cooperation by local companies has been phenomenal, and in just a few months of working with DCI, the region has been featured in stories in The Economist and CNNMoney.com. If the business development efforts to connect with corporate decision makers is to be successful, along with your contacts, this PR campaign can help "warm up" the targets with a favorable impression about what our region has to offer.

Marketing and Recruitment: Target2010 strongly urged us to create a regional business brand again because business decision makers and skilled workers either don't know about our region or could not find or relate to us. Extensive research led to the "Greater Reno-Tahoe: Welcome to Can Do" business brand. The brand is based on four promises: life balance, sense of community, outdoor adventure and emerging businesses a message we need to deliver outside the market. Director of Marketing Gail Conkey and marketing consultant Lorna Shepard intend to assist companies recruit and retain skilled professionals through a program to connect employers to skilled workers looking for jobs. It is the prime concern of companies considering our region, and we are working hard to facilitate that discussion with employers.

We have greatly enhanced our Website (www.edawn.org) to deliver that message, along with www.MyNevadaDreamJob.com to collect qualified leads for employers. A national workforce survey has helped us to identify perceptions and obstacles to be overcome in considering relocating here. We need to both recruit talent which will both help employers and those in the slumping housing market and improve the region's image.

There is much to do and we are doing it! Resources have become increasingly scarce. Therefore, a fifth, obvious goal is to increase membership and funding so that we and our partners can be successful in our efforts to build the Greater Reno-Tahoe economy, and with it, maintain our outstanding quality of life for years to come.

Chuck Alvey is president and chief executive officer of EDAWN.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada]


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