RENO, Nev. — In November, the Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network announced the winners of its annual Twenty Under 40 Awards.
We at the NNBW feel it's important for people of all ages, background and professions to have a voice about the current state of business in Northern Nevada.
With the region's economic future in mind, NNBW Reporter Kaleb M. Roedel is conducting a Q-and-A with each of the 2019 winners; interviews will be published throughout the year.
Go to renotahoeypn.com to learn more about Reno-Tahoe YPN. Read this week's Q-and-A below.
Q: What do you see as the biggest economic development opportunities for Northern Nevada in 2020 and beyond?
YeVonne Allen: In conjunction with the city of Reno's movement of being a tourist hotspot, not only for casinos but for actual outdoor life, I think that's just going to keep growing. Anywhere that you see around town, the renovation is geared towards you know, bigger sidewalks so that people could walk more, having bike lanes, things of that sort.
And education is a forever-growing field. Because as we get more businesses here, as we get more consumers in the area, there's a need for an educated workforce.
Q: Why is it important for younger professionals to have a seat at the table when it comes to the business community in Northern Nevada?
YeVonne Allen: We're not at or near retirement age, so decisions that are being made now about the future … that future is our future. Once today's policies are implemented in 10, 20, 30 years, that's when we are the executives that are actually having to live with what was being implemented now. So I think that it's very important to have our lens be at the table, at least, and be recognized with the understanding that it will be my generation and this age group that has to implement these policies and live with the repercussions of what's happening now. So we might as well be there.
And I think we have a different focus than some past generations. We're maybe not as capitalistic; we're maybe a little bit more pro-social on doing things for the greater good. We want to see more equality, we understand what that means, we want inclusive workforces. So it's a little bit of a cultural change that I think is happening with the new business professionals as well.
Q: What on-the-rise industry or industries have the biggest opportunity for growth in Northern Nevada?
YeVonne Allen: With the conversations around student debt and students having to take out loans and stuff like that, I think that the value of a certificate or a trade program at places like TMCC is so valuable, especially right now we're in a construction crisis. There's a building even here at TMCC that we were looking at, you know, potentially building, but the cost of construction is so high right now that it's not even worth it to seek out the contractors. Part of the reasoning behind that is people are having to be shipped in for our workforce. We need more concrete workers, we need more HVAC folks, we need people who know the trades.
I've been saying it for a couple of years now: anyone who is looking to get back in education, get your degree in HVAC, get your degree in logistics management. We even have a apprenticeship program here for electricians, for carpenters, everything. And it really is these trades that are becoming so needed. MBAs are a dime a dozen right now. There are certain programs that there are so many people being pumped out in the grad programs, there aren't jobs for them. But we need those people who will do our electrical for 30 bucks an hour who went to a two-year trade program.
Q: Where do you see the greater Reno-Sparks region in five years?
YeVonne Allen: Five years? So we've got 2025. Hopefully, a lot of our local partners have finished out on their construction adventures, like the Jacobs (Entertainment) folks, everything at Park Lane. So, I'm hoping to see the finalization of some projects I feel like have been dragging on for a while.
And to see a more integrated workforce in terms of mirroring our local demographic. My background is equity and diversity, so that always is what I'm going to focus on — having our underrepresented populations really included in our workforce in the proper ratio to our citizenship. Because right now it's very skewed, it's predominantly white. No matter that our demographics are predominantly white, we need to have equal representation per the demographic percentages for every other race, as well.
The city of Reno has a diversity plan, which is pretty awesome. I sit on the civil service commission for the city of Reno, as well. And with that, we're really making strides on how to reach applicants for open positions within the city of Reno that can really hit that wide pool of diverse citizens.
Q: If you could change one thing for the better about your community, what would it be?
YeVonne Allen: Proper inclusion, but also I think a true appreciation for education is something that is needed to increase here in the Reno/Northern Nevada area. We know that the university exists. It's an ‘R1' university now, as well. People don't realize how important that designation is. TMCC has a federal designation of being an HSI, Hispanic Serving Institution, which is a huge deal nationwide. And I don't think that the regular Renoite walking around Midtown understands how much amazing knowledge we have in this little town and the appreciation that's needed for it.
So my ideal wish is an appreciation for education and the importance of education. There are so many times that we go into high schools as community college folks, and even middle schools, and not every kid knows that college is a real possibility for them. And I think that Reno is small enough that we could be one of those good old college towns where it's assumed after high school, you're either going to TMCC or you're going to UNR. And so I think we need to create that climate and that culture here.
And do it in an equitable and inclusive manner.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.