Regional data geeks had a taste of heaven Sept. 1 when the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada released the long-anticipated EPIC report, more formally called the Northern Nevada Regional Growth Forecast.
With 200 pages filled with charts, maps, lists and analysis, the report is not light reading but it is must reading for a wide variety of government, business, social, educational and other entities charged with preparing for the economic future of northwestern Nevada.
RCG Economics LLC prepared the report under contract to the Economic Planning Indicator Committee (EPIC), with the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) as a central contributor.
The report has been cited for months in reference to predictions of significant job growth in the region over the next five years, which is expected to spur substantial population growth. The EPIC report looks at the impact of that growth on tax revenues, transportation, demographics, housing, and more, in the five-county region of Washoe, Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties.
“This report is pretty thorough,” said Kimberly Robinson, executive director of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency and one of 33 members of the EPIC, which included a wide variety of jurisdictions and interest groups.
“It’s always helpful to have more information,” she said.
As comprehensive as the study is, it still represents a high level of uncertainty and will be updated periodically with real numbers replacing projections, downplaying some projections and strengthening others, much as a hurricane warning narrows as it approaches land.
“It’s especially important to start to do the monitoring,” said Jeremy Smith, GIS coordinator for TMRPA and a member of the EPIC.
“This is about projecting the future,” Robinson said. “The future is inherently uncertain, which is why there are four scenarios.”
The main scenarios, A, B, and C, each reflect estimates of different levels of job and population growth from 2015 to the end of 2019. The fourth, B2, includes projections of much higher population growth based on the possibility that many of the expected jobs may need to be filled from outside the region.
The forecasts for job growth for the scenarios are: A — 56,600 new jobs; B — 52,400; and C — 47,400.
The forecasts for population growth are: A — 46,200 people added to the five-county region; B — 42,400; B2 — 64,700; and C — 37,800.
The B forecast, as the middle ground, is currently being used as the focal point of discussions.
The study also projects where the population growth is most likely to occur.
Five neighborhoods — called EPIC Zones — are expected to account for about two-thirds of the projected population growth. They are: Sparks Suburban, North Reno, Southeast Reno, North Washoe and South Washoe.
With the geographical area of the study covering five counties with varying types and levels of data collection, creating a forecast from raw data proved challenging, Smith said.
“To get a finer grained approach it was somewhat difficult to merge all the data together,” he said. “The five counties had different levels of data available.”
The EPIC report is a tool to help understand the impacts of growth on the various entities in the community and determine the areas most likely to have challenges, Smith said.
Along with updates to the EPIC report, additional studies by different organizations will look at different aspects of the expected growth.
School officials are especially on alert.
The Washoe County School District is working with TMRPA on its own regional housing study looking 20 years into the future, which will be released in draft form at the Sept. 9 Regional Planning Commission meeting.
As valuable as the EPIC report is to planning for the future of the region, the process to create it had its own value.
“The big success story here is the group of people who got together to make it happen,” Robinson said. “Doors opened; relationships were built.”