Relocating to Northern Nevada: Tech-splosion bolstering the economy

June Ou, co-founder and chief operating officer of Figure Technologies, talks about the financial technology company's move to Reno in late 2018.

June Ou, co-founder and chief operating officer of Figure Technologies, talks about the financial technology company's move to Reno in late 2018.

RENO/SPARKS ,Nev. — Technology companies continue to flock to Northern Nevada. In addition to bringing a slate of new jobs to the region, they also are providing an influx of capital that's reshaping the region's new economy.

Gaming will always be a major contributor to the region's economic health. Likewise, the Sierra Nevada will always offer world-class outdoor recreation and skiing that draws residents of the Truckee Meadows, Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay Area alike for winter and summertime activities.

But Reno has diversified over the past decade or so from its longtime roots in gaming, construction, tourism and warehousing/distribution. Its new economy is powered in part by the likes of technology giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Panasonic, Switch, and many, many smaller technology companies that have planted their flags here in recent years.

Newcomers to the region won't recall the bad days before these companies landed, when the Great Recession cut regional housing prices in half (or more), residential foreclosures and retail store closings were routine, and unemployment topped out in the double digits.

Hopefully, new residents won't ever see such dark days during the next economic downturn, as technology companies — along with advanced manufacturing and e-commerce — are expected to provide better shelter for all of Greater Reno-Sparks.

Apple's Northern Nevada Data Center is located at 21505 Reno Technology Parkway in Sparks.

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, says efforts to bring more technology companies to the region were part of EDAWN's long-range plans to diversify the regional economy and grow the community into a technology hub that capitalizes on its proximity to the Bay Area.

“We have done that by significantly growing our advanced manufacturing cluster here, which in large part includes robotics, coding, software development — things that help the technology talent in the region find good jobs,” Kazmierski says. “We also pushed for data centers — there were no data centers here seven years ago.

“We were fortunate to land Apple, and we've had several other significant data centers join our region, and that has added technology talent to the area.”

The final leg of the stool, Kazmierski adds, was a push to foster increased entrepreneurial growth. The unprecedented wave of smaller technology firms emerging from Reno's many entrepreneurial ecosystems is creating a host of additional technology jobs — 90 percent of regional entrepreneurial growth is related to technology, Kazmierski says.

June Ou, co-founder and chief operating officer of Figure Technologies, talks about the financial technology company's move to Reno in late 2018.

That combination established a strong technology foundation that enables workforce development organizations such as EDAWN and private-sector employers to lure additional technology workers and firms to the region.

Last year saw a record number of pure technology and technology-related businesses open shop in Northern Nevada, including RIZKNOWS, Figure Technologies, Iris Automation and MOBE, among others.

“The beauty of our region now is that because of this strong technology presence it has become much easier to get technology companies to look at us,” Kazmierski says. “A big part of our strategic planning has been to diversify the economy. When you have a diversified economy, which is what we have now, you have manufacturing, logistics, technology and other clusters that are much less affected by reduced consumer spending.

“They are more resilient, and so we will not feel as great an impact of the next recession — in fact our economy is growing at such a rate that we could even use a little slowdown.”

Northern Nevada is a natural fit for technology companies for a variety of reasons. It has a growing technology-based workforce and it offers an attractive quality of life for tech workers — especially those used to spending hours in their cars commuting on overcrowded Bay Area freeways. It's modestly close to Silicon Valley, yet land and rents are still affordable. And there's no state income tax, meaning employees' hard-earned dollars go further.

Nevada also is pro-business when compared to its neighbor to the west. Small tech companies can gain a foothold here and grow without navigating stifling regulatory oversight and business taxation.

“We have a very strong advantage when it comes to the cost of doing business,” Kazmierski says.

The past decade saw sweeping changes to Northern Nevada's economy and skilled workforce. As newcomers continue to flock to the region, they will help power and grow Reno's new economic revolution.


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