RENO, Nev. — By now, it’s safe to say the Biggest Little City is no longer the biggest little secret.
In recent years, Reno has been popping up on national rankings of the best cities in the U.S. to live, work and play. Even now, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the region’s reputation continues to build momentum.
On July 16, Reno was named one of the top cities in the country for corporate relocations or expansion projects in the next year, according to survey results published by the Site Selectors Guild, which describes itself as “the world’s foremost professional site selection consultants.”
According to the survey, conducted the week of June 29 and aimed at uncovering “changes and new trends in corporate location strategy brought on by the COVID-19 crisis,” the pandemic is shifting corporations’ radar away from big cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago and toward mid-size cities like Reno.
“It’s really a result of years of work by our community to get better and be a better place for business,” Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, said in a phone interview with the NNBW. “And promote our quality of life, which has always been great, as well as our arts and culture and education institutions … all of the things people are looking for now.”
Reno was one of 11 cities that consultants named as a top destination for companies to consider for relocation or expansion. Other western mid-size cities deemed strong candidates included Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Tucson, Arizona.
The Site Selectors Guild says the five most active industries right now are biotech and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage processing, transportation and logistics, and software and IT.
Since 2015, greater Reno-Sparks has seen tech companies of all sizes and stripes — from Tesla to Google to New Deantronics to Figure — plant flags in the region, in addition to a surge of startups moving in from the Bay Area. And with its geographic advantage, Reno continues to flex its muscles as a hub for logistics and ecommerce.
As a result, Kazmierski said, the area is creating more high-skilled, high-wage jobs.
“When you start bringing in more and more advanced manufacturing and technology, you’re now talking about average wages that are 60, 70, 80 thousand (dollars) a year,” he said. “It gives people a lot of disposal income to enjoy their quality of life here.”
The EDAWN leader said that Reno’s reputation truly lifted off when Tesla expanded to Northern Nevada in 2015, building its Gigafactory 1 at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.
Once complete, the company expects the factory to be the biggest building in the world by footprint at 5.8 million square feet.
“The Tesla announcement five years ago was helpful when it comes to getting people to look at the community different,” he said.
Reno’s distinction as a relocation and expansion hotspot comes on the heels of topping Canadian firm Resonance Consultancy’s annual America’s Best Small Cities rankings, which were announced in late June, topping Naples, Florida, and Sante Fe, New Mexico.
“Natural assets and growing infrastructure make ‘little city’ Reno a big-time destination for visitors and talent,” according to the Consultancy’s 2020 report.
“That recognition that we’ve had in the past as a community on the rise is now reflected as a community that really is not only on the rise but is even more attractive given the restraints of the pandemic,” Kazmierski said.
To that end, Kazmierski said the COVID crisis has shone an even brighter spotlight on the Reno area as businesses and remote-workers seek out cities that are less congested, more affordable, and offer a high quality of life.
“Our playbook is a great place to live, work and play,” he continued. “While the housing prices are significantly higher than they have been in the past, we’re still a fraction of what it is in the Bay Area or other fairly large cities. And our proximity to the mountains and our proximity to the Bay Area gives us an added plus.
“And when you throw in advantages like short commutes and no income tax, people start to look at this place as a pretty good place to be.”