Voices | Robert Hooper: Economic development invests in the present and future

The effectiveness of economic development is most often defined by its accomplishments versus its objectives. Despite the Great Recession, Northern Nevada Development Authority’s leadership and hard work, combined with the collaboration and support of its investor partners, led to a regular influx of new industrial companies in the Sierra Region over the past six years.

Since 2010, NNDA has worked with 67 out-of-state companies who either relocated to the Sierra Region, or expanded their businesses here. The organization has helped 20 companies to expand, and provided retention assistance to another 27 companies. NNDA’s efforts have resulted in the creation of over 5,000 new jobs, and the total economic impact for the region was $1.7 billion.

During the past 12 months, NNDA has assisted seven new companies with their moves to the region, and it also assisted with five major company expansions. 470 new direct jobs have been created, and over $25.9 million of direct capital investment has been for equipment.

NNDA is also focused on retaining existing businesses in the region, helping them to grow and expand.

However, investment in economic development is not limited to the present. It is equally about building a solid foundation for the future, with ongoing economic prosperity as the desired outcome. While its efforts are for the present situation, the NNDA mission includes planning for the future. Return on mission is as critical as return on investment.

This is important now as the Sierra Region is once again entering into a new economic phase, with all of the excitement, opportunities and challenges that the area experienced during the discovery of the Comstock Lode.

While the current economic cycle is on the upswing, we must prepare for the inevitable next downturn.

The key to managing these ever-changing economic cycles and sustaining long-term economic prosperity is leveraging and maximizing the present opportunities, while working diligently to develop systems that will help minimize and mitigate the next cycle shifts.

Development of these systems needs to include out-of-state influences. For example, NNDA is currently experiencing steadily growing inquiries from California-based companies with a strong interest in relocating or expanding to this area. This appears to be the result of the existing California business environment, including increasing business costs and the expansion of regulatory requirements.

Bear in mind that the economies of northern California and northern Nevada have long been intertwined, beginning with the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s and continuing today. Historically, when the economy of one area is affected, either in a positive or negative way, the other experiences a similar impact. Also, the flow of goods, services and resources between these areas is state-boundaries agnostic, further encouraged by the joint California-Nevada stewardship of Lake Tahoe. It provides a pathway to unique partnerships that can mitigate the challenges and maximize the opportunities for both regions, through collaboration and coordination across state lines.

Continuous, broad, more aggressive investment in economic development will help to ensure that economic upticks can be leveraged and maximized, and downturns can be effectively mitigated and minimized. Today’s economic development investments lead to tomorrow’s economic prosperity.

Robert Hooper is executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority.


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