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
Q: What do you see
as the top one or two biggest economic development opportunities for Northern
Nevada in 2020 and beyond?
Alphonse Polito: I think the tech opportunities
are enormous. I don't know too much of the inner-workings of these things, but
from an outsider's perspective, I really envision the tech industry continuing
to move to what we're seeing out at TRIC. It used to be people sitting in front
of computers, and now it's space because data is so huge. I deal with that in
my world with what we film — we shoot really high-resolution imagery. My data
management is one of my hardest challenges.
And as we're growing, I think our workforce is getting stronger.
And I think that opportunity for businesses to be here is really enticing. And
obviously it was growing like crazy before and I'm just hopeful it continues. I
love it here and I love the opportunities these new businesses are providing
To add to that: In my industry, one of the things I love about
this area is the diverse landscapes and diverse opportunities that it provides
for filming. I've filmed, in one day, a lake setting and a desert setting. For
me, it's amazing. We can set a movie out on the moon and go 20 miles one way or
we could go 20 miles the other way and shoot some crazy horror movie in the
trees. So, selfishly, I hope the film industry sees that a little bit more and
starts to bring more business this way.
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?
Polito: I think that goes
with the diverse thing. For me, I've been able to meet a ton of people and
learn, and more importantly, I think it's that new wave of the tech industry. I
think it's important to not discourage age when it comes to economic drivers
because, as young entrepreneurs and young business people, those are the people
that really push each other to grow. That's how I was, at least. People I went
to school with at UNR were starting to have success and I would learn from them,
and I was able to teach them things.
This community is super inviting and super open to helping and I
think that's what's awesome. And I think the younger generation continues to
have that spirit here, and I hope that never goes away.
Q: What under-the-radar
industries have the biggest opportunity for growth in Northern Nevada?
Polito: I don't know if it's
under the radar or not, but I think the really, really great food and beverage
industry. I travel a lot for work. I'm in big cities — New York, Boston, the
Bay Area. I feel fortunate to get to try different restaurants and different
places. And some of my favorite meals are still here. I think that industry has
an opportunity here to just thrive, and I really hope it continues.
And the other one that I think could potentially grow is the arts
and music and theater scene. There are a lot of people here that are talented.
I get to deal with actors a lot, and some of the people here are so talented.
I'm always just blown away at what we have here, and I'm hoping it continues to
thrive. Arts and any culture stuff, I think this community is really welcoming
Q: Where do you see
the greater Reno-Sparks region in five years?
Polito: It's going to grow,
we can't get away from that — the secret's out. I think that's kind of cool.
Obviously, I don't want it to change too much; I want it to keep that character
that it's always had. The growth's happening, I just think the next five years
is how we grow with it. I think it's going to potentially turn into — and everyone
says this — like an Austin. I've never been to Austin, but that's what I've
heard and what I've read. With the arts and culture and food, where it's that
diverse economy. What I think we have over a place like that is the tourism; we
have 300-something days of sunshine; we have ski resorts; we have golf courses.
I think we're really going to be this hotspot for people to want to not just
visit, but also live.
Q: If you could change
one thing for the better about your community, what would it be?
Polito: This feels like a bigger issue than I know how to speak to, but I've been really honored to get to work with the (Nevada) Department of Health and Human Services and dealing with opioid addiction. We've produced three documentaries about the subject matter. You get to know people, and that community of people that are struggling with homelessness, addiction, mental illness … that community of people is just brushed aside so often and I hope that we as a community can help. Continue to help, I should say, because I think there are people doing great things. That population is sometimes easy to turn a blind eye to, so we all should continue to look at them and find ways to put ourselves in their shoes a little bit. And continue to address the stigma associated with these things.
Editor's Note: The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.