Reno growth has mixed impacts on Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Reno’s changing and growing at a breakneck speed, and along with it, its economy.

This was the message Mike Kazmierski, president of Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), gave during a recent luncheon sponsored by the Tahoe Prosperity Center and Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Kazmierski said with both electric car titan Tesla and Switch, a technology company, coming to the Reno-Sparks area and the construction at the 107,000-acre Tahoe Reno Industrial Center business park, 52,400 jobs are expected to be created in the next five years.

Switch, a massive data storage company, relocated its operations from Las Vegas to Reno because of the area’s growing reputation as a business hub.

This is on top of the growth Reno-Sparks saw in 2014 when 27 companies set up shop and an additional seven expanded.

Tesla alone would employ some 6,500 people when its plant is fully operational.

EDAWN spearheaded the effort to gather data on the impact of the economy over the next 10 years in collaboration with neighboring county and city governments.

Overall, EDAWN projects a 4.5 percent growth in jobs and development in the Reno-Sparks area between 2015 and 2019. Kazmierski said this includes manufacturing, distribution and service jobs along with an increase in housing. EDAWN’s projections include Washoe, Douglas, Lyon, Carson City and Storey counties in Nevada.

The growth has a mixed impact on both South and North Lake Tahoe.

The downside has implications for the basin’s talented workforce pool in the area. Kazmierski said the companies coming in will have an advantage in terms of pay. The $10-$12 per-hour wage will become the minimum, with many companies likely to offer higher pay packages.

Relocating or heading down the hill for a job is more desirable than driving up and down the hill every day, especially for those that live in Carson Valley.

“The workforce you counted on or had support from down in the valley is going to be more attracted to opportunities as Reno-Sparks grows,” Kazmierski said.

Kazmierski said the best way to deal with the solution was to jump in front of it rather than react.

“If you haven’t thought about the impact on your workforce, the sooner you do that, the better,” Kazmierski said.

He stressed that a lot of the companies will want a skilled labor force.

The upside, Kazmierski said, would be increased visitor spending in Lake Tahoe, especially for those companies that move or relocate their corporate headquarters to Reno.

This means expanded air services for the area.

“We (Reno-Sparks) have better air service for a community our size than any other place in the country. Obviously the tourist has a big part of that but it is growing.”

Both South and North Lake will play into the “lifestyle and play” equations for people relocating from other areas, rather than as the main purpose.

Most companies look at the bottom-line purpose of setting up shop, hiring or relocating people and handling resources and government requirements.

Quality of life plays into attracting people who are geared toward biking, hiking and other mountain and water activities. The other scenario plays into relocating the main corporate headquarters to Reno, which involves relocation of the chief executive offer.

Millennials, who represent approximately one-third of the nation’s workforce, will look at Tahoe as a major quality-of-life indicator. Kazmierski said that EDAWN has plans to attract that population to the Reno area by leveraging Tahoe’s appeal.

Betty “B” Gorman, president of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the major impact would be workforce-related.

Gorman said Tahoe Prosperity Center has research showing 10,000 people moving over Spooner Summit or Kingsbury Grade a day for work.

She said there are businesses that can’t fill job spots to date, whether it’s with the city of South Lake Tahoe or the various resorts and service industries.

Sandy Evans Hall, with North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, said the entire basin has to take a proactive approach.

“We are looking at what we can do as a collaborative,” Hall said. “This is not something we should be afraid of but something we need to embrace.”

Other business-savvy people in the South Shore see similar concerns with Reno’s impact on the basin, including Jamie Orr with Tahoe Mountain Lab, a small-business co-working space.

“That’s a very legitimate fear and if we do nothing we will that happen,” Orr said last week. “However if we are very savvy about how we position ourselves, we have some advantage for some industries.”

Examples include biomedical, environmental policy and water quality.

“As long we keep pushing our strengths and assets, I think we are going to be OK,” Orr said. “Ultimately what is happening in Reno will be a huge benefit to the whole region.”


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