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: Devin Sizemore Age: 31 Profession/Title: Business Development Manager at Gratis Payment Processing Years in Reno/Northern Nevada: 19
Q: What do you see as the top one or two biggest economic development opportunities for Northern Nevada in 2021 and beyond? Devin Sizemore: I think diversity is the first thing that comes to mind, no matter what that looks like. We have such an influx of businesses coming from other places. At least five times a week, I’m talking to someone who’s relocating here for business. It’s really interesting to see the education, the industries and the thought processes that they’re bringing with them. And then that has to impact the community here with diversity in food, music, entertainment, the styles of businesses, types of buildings we’re building … it has to just diversify everything. And I think the other thing we’ll see is quite a bit of innovation. I think we already have a good entrepreneur ecosystem here, but I think we’re going to see a lot more startup growth. 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? Sizemore: I started my first business when I was 22, and I’ve always been a big advocate for youth in business. I think there is still a stigma that you have to have experience to be anybody. And I don’t think that’s true. I think that youth can bring fresh ideas, fresh energy, a different perspective. I’m a huge advocate for young people going out and doing whatever they’re passionate about. And you have less risk when you’re young, too, right? You usually don’t have a family; your overhead is less, so it’s a little easier to attack business at a young age. The older you get, the more complex your life gets, and business can actually become pretty challenging. Q: What under the radar industries have the biggest opportunity for growth in Northern Nevada? Sizemore: I think artificial intelligence is going to be a really big industry and we’re already starting to see some of that here. I think automation, which goes hand-in-hand with artificial intelligence, is going to be critical. I think we’ll see a lot more of that in the manufacturing space here. I think you’ll see virtual reality taking shape in different ways in the business sector. And I think drones and tech in that space is going to advance rapidly as well. It’s all heavy tech, but I think we’re going to see a lot of really cool innovation here in the next few years. Q: Where do you see the greater Reno-Sparks region in five years? Sizemore: I think we’re already becoming the next Silicon Valley, and I know it’s probably one of those things that everybody’s tired of hearing, but it’s true, right? When you’re attracting Tesla and Panasonic and Google and Apple, and you’re getting big tech positions in town and education systems are adjusting to match that, I think we’re going to be hub for innovation. Logistically, Reno is a great hub for trucking, manufacturing and warehousing, so we’re seeing an influx of that. As long as we stay tax-friendly, we’re going to see a huge business influx, which we’re already seeing, so it’s going to get bigger, it’s going to get more exciting. And Reno is going to be on the map as far as a talking point in business circles, it’ll be a talking point in education circles. Right now, I still think we’re flying under the radar a little bit. Q: If you could change one thing for the better or improve one thing about your community, what would it be? Sizemore: I think the magic 8 ball right now is we need to embrace growth in all aspects of the market and in the community. And I think a lot of people are. We still have some work to do. We’ve got to increase infrastructure, we have to do everything that’s needed for the city and surrounding cities to stomach the growth that we’re going to get and we are getting. I think we’re trying, but I still think we’re a little behind here.
Q: Why do you feel Northern Nevada is better positioned to bounce back from the COVID recession than other regions?
Sizemore: I think the first answer is community. Reno still is the Biggest Little City and I think that means we’re very much a relationship-driven community, even with the growth. And because of that there is an inherent supportive, do-good value that has never left. We also diversified better than a lot of other markets. If you look at Vegas compared to us and you look at unemployment in the state, unemployment up here is half of what it was in Vegas, but they didn’t diversify as much as we did. I think between community and diversification in industries, that’s what driving Reno. I’ve got buddies who are struggling, but there’s a great community here where they can ask and say, ‘hey, I need help.’ And I think you’ve seen that. You’ve seen restaurants get creative, bars get creative and the community get behind them and willing to spend their money and support those businesses. And other communities probably lack that a little bit because the whole community’s not involved. Note: This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity. Go to renotahoeypn.com/2020-winners for the full list of Twenty Under 40 winners.