SPARKS, Nev. — Before the coronavirus pandemic pumped the brakes on the U.S. economy, Northern Nevada was on a roll.
Thanks to greater Reno-Sparks' business-friendly climate, deepening talent pool and access to a high quality of life, companies from across the country have been flocking to the region like clockwork.
All told, Reno-Sparks has created 57,200 jobs across a wide spectrum of industries in the last five years. In 2019 alone, the Reno metro area saw its job growth jump 4%, with 10,000 new jobs added in the region.
Though the growth stalled for a few months because of the COVID crisis, the economic engine is revving back up in Reno-Sparks as the state continues to gradually reopen.
This is even further evidenced by the June 10 announcement from the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada that three new companies are relocating to Northern Nevada, bringing with them a combined 340 jobs.
With that in mind, the NNBW is periodically checking in with CEOs of some companies that migrated to the region over the past several years to find out exactly why they chose Northern Nevada — and, what opportunities and challenges they have faced since launching in Reno-Sparks.
This week, we feature a Q-and-A with Jim Emme, CEO of NOW Foods in Sparks.
Q: Why did you decide to expand NOW Foods to Northern Nevada?
Jim Emme: Our main location is in the Chicago area. We were not competing well against competitors who we based west of the Rocky Mountains. We chose the Reno-Sparks area to start up a distribution center in a rental property off of Packer Way in 2003. The location was so successful, we decided to purchase land, and build a new facility that would also include a manufacturing operation. The new facility on Vista Boulevard began operations in 2011.
Q: What is it about Nevada's favorable tax climate that makes doing good business in the Silver State possible?
Emme: The business climate in Northern Nevada is excellent, and the favorable tax environment helps to reduce costs, making our products more affordable.
Q: What's the biggest thing that's changed about your company since relocating here?
Emme: Our international sales to Asia and the Middle East have grown nicely. These markets are serviced mainly from our Sparks operations. The geographic location allows us to deliver our orders to these regions much more efficiently and cost-effectively than from the Midwest.
Q: What kind of job growth has your company experienced since relocating here?
Emme: We started out with 15 people in 2003, and today we have nearly 300 in the Vista Boulevard operation.
Q: What levels of financial success has your company enjoyed since relocating here?
Emme: Our company sales have more than doubled since we began our operations in Nevada.
Q: What opportunities for growth are on the horizon for your company here in Northern Nevada?
Emme: Our strategy to grow our international business is supported by the Sparks location. We also see more opportunities to support our e-commerce customers by expanding in Sparks.
Q: What challenges does your company address when it comes to recruiting a strong workforce that's paid well and can comfortably live here?
Emme: This is without a doubt our biggest challenge. We typically pay more than more companies because we are family owned and believe in taking care of our people. We offer excellent benefits, a quarterly bonus for our people, and a matching 401K program that is very competitive. Most new people who join NOW cannot believe the culture we have in our company. These all work to our advantage in the tight labor market in the Reno Sparks region.
Q: If you could change anything about your decision to plant your flag in Northern Nevada, what would it be?
Emme: Nothing. Sparks has been one of the most successful investments in the 52-year history of our company, and will continue to be a key part of our global growth strategy.