In addition to his full-time role with Renown Health, Chris Nicholas volunteers part of his time as a board member for nonprofit High Fives Foundation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In November, the Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network announced the winners of its 14th annual Twenty Under 40 Awards. With the region’s economic future in mind, we are conducting interviews with each of the 2020 winners, to be published throughout the year.
Who are you?
Name: Chris Nicholas
Profession/Title: VP and administrator of Renown South Meadows Medical Center and Rehabilitation Hospital
Years in Reno/Northern Nevada: 8
Q: What do you see as the top one or two biggest economic development opportunities for Northern Nevada in 2021 and beyond?
Chris Nicholas: One of the biggest is really diversifying our industries here. Moving from a gambling and mining town to really a center of innovation and technology. So, I think that continued progress has to be mirrored really with the development of infrastructure, with the schools that can support the families that are moving here, and obviously the healthcare system.
And also, the investments that Renown is making in our master plans for our hospitals and other areas to really support the people that are coming to our community and the people who are already here.
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?
Nicholas: I think, like every generation, we add a unique perspective. We were raised in different times with different events and different technology and access to information that our previous generations didn’t have. And so, I think we bring a unique perspective.
I also think that, to allude to my last comment, a lot of the individuals who work for the companies that are maybe targeting or have come to Reno have a younger demographic to them. So, it’s important to shape our business culture as well as our community, from the perspective that is in line with the people that are coming.
Q: What under the radar industries have the biggest opportunity for growth in Northern Nevada?
Nicholas: Healthcare in general here has just a really great opportunity. We’ve really focused on taking care of our community and adhering to our mission, but also innovating and using new technologies and leveraging people in different ways to really provide the right care and access and service that our community needs and our community demands.
Going back to that younger population that’s coming here, we have different healthcare expectations than the previous generations as well. We want to access healthcare in many ways, and usually in different ways than our previous generations.
Q: Where do you see the greater Reno-Sparks region in five years?
Nicholas: I have a preference and then I have a reality. The preference is to stay exactly where it is. I compare it a lot to Denver but on a smaller scale. And Denver has become a place that is so big and so expensive that it’s really not accessible for all families and individuals.
The reason a lot of people move to this community, with the exception of a job opportunity and things like that, is the access to mountain life, and the quick access to mountain life. Whereas in Denver, it’s two hours to get into the mountains now because of the traffic, so the preference sort of is to kind of keep it how it is, but continue to have some development.
But I know that’s not the reality. I think where it will go is we’ll see as much or more growth than what we have already seen. I think that the pandemic has even expedited that and really pushed that because of the move to remote work. Now people are looking for places they want to live, knowing that they can work from where they live, as opposed to living where they have to work.
Q: If you could change one thing for the better or improve one thing about your community, what would it be?
Nicholas: I think it just goes back again to infrastructure. Ensuring that we’re building the infrastructure to support the growth that we’re experiencing, whether that’s transportation or that’s education or that’s healthcare, making sure that we’re focused on that, because I think the most challenging thing will be that if the growth happens and we’re not prepared for it. We’ve seen cities that have experienced that and then it becomes a real challenge.
Q: Why do you feel Northern Nevada is better positioned to bounce back from the COVID recession than other regions?
Nicholas: This is a community that bounds together, and organizations step up to take care of it, whether it’s the schools or healthcare or local government. You’ve just you’ve seen through the pandemic a total unification of community to get back to helping people and getting people employed — and, again, the move of people to locations where they want to live as opposed to where they have to live.
The attrition out of California and predominantly in the tech industry is significant. So, I think that because of our location to California and the challenges and expensive living there, we’re going to continue to see people migrate in this direction.
And we have lots of open lands to build gigafactories and Google test-driving facilities and all of the other companies that are really starting to identify this region. We’re also — from the broader perspective — a business friendly state and community as well.
Note: This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.