Shrunken EDAWN back to core mission " jobs, jobs, jobs

A "save the date" e-mail for the annual Directions economic forecasting event distributed last week was noteworthy in at least one respect:

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada won't be among the lead organizers of the big annual event on Feb. 10.

Faced with a budget that's been cut in half, fewer staff and an urgent need to battle the 13 percent jobless rate in the Reno-Sparks area, EDAWN is focused entirely on recruitment and retention of employers.

"It's about the core mission. We gotta get jobs created," says Chuck Alvey, the president and chief executive officer of the Reno-based economic development group.

Five of the eight staff members of spend EDAWN most of their days talking with prospective new companies or looking for ways to keep existing employers from leaving the area. The other three staff handle support responsibilities.

Recruitment of new companies is a tough slog.

Although EDAWN is working with about 200 companies that are candidates to move to northern Nevada, only five have been announced this year. And four of those announcements came during the first three months of the year.

During the boom years earlier this decade, it wasn't unusual for that many new companies to announce plans during a single month.

Gail Conkey, EDAWN's director of business retention and development, is working with more than 40 existing employers in the region. She helps some with their plans to add jobs. She attempts to convince others that they shouldn't move or shut down operations in northern Nevada.

"We need to be aggressive about retention and expansion," Alvey says.

EDAWN teams with other groups in town to add muscle to its efforts.

During a major convention of the Geothermal Energy Association in Reno this month, EDAWN teamed with the City of Reno and the owners of office and commercial properties to recruit geothermal companies to the region.

That turned up 13 companies interested in hearing more about locating headquarters operations in northern Nevada.

"There's a lot going on," Alvey says.

But EDAWN isn't busy these days with events the luncheons, dinners and mixers that once filled the calendars of businesspeople in the region. It's out of the events business.

That's a strategic decision, Alvey says, as EDAWN's board believes that the economic development agency should focus on job creation and leave social events to groups such as the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce and WIN.

It also reflects financial reality.

Four years ago, EDAWN was working on a $3.5 million annual budget, and its staff managed numerous events, undertook major projects such as the Target 2010 initiative to identify key sectors for economic growth and marketed the region throughout the nation.

Now, the budget is about $1.5 million a year. The state government reduced its assistance, local governments modestly trimmed theirs and some EDAWN members have reduced their contributions.

While major contributors have remained steadfast in their financial support of EDAWN, Alvey says the group has lost the memberships of about 40 mid-sized and smaller companies. Most of them were involved in homebuilding, residential real estate or related fields.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment