Michael Brown, head of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, says the agency is very busy.
“We have never been busier in GOED with the number of companies calling us,” he told the audience at the Northern Nevada Development Authority’s annual economic report on Wednesday, Oct. 27.
He said dozens of companies, especially in California, are interested in moving to Nevada because of its location near the Pacific coast.
Phil Cowee, director of NNDA, said those companies — particularly those with distribution centers — want access to the huge market in California, “but they don’t want to be in California,” he said, adding: “Nevada is just close enough.”
But Brown said Nevada faces some huge challenges in getting them here.
“Housing is a challenge all across the state, no matter where you are,” he said. “There is no miracle solution to this.”
Another problem is the difficulty companies are having getting people to apply for open jobs, a problem Brown described as national.
People, he said, are looking at work differently than they did before the pandemic hit. He said he has been told there are upward of 20,000 unfilled jobs in northwestern Nevada.
Brown said the state is dealing with the fact that, during the 1970s, apprenticeships and trade education programs were dismantled as educators encouraged every student to go to college and get a four-year degree.
But Nevada’s workforce is largely high school-plus. He said the state needs to focus on community colleges and apprenticeships to get these students into good paying jobs and rewarding careers.
Brown said he would like to see lawmakers make more changes to occupational licensing.
“The more we can lower the barriers to make it easier to come to Nevada, the better,” he said.
He said that would help with a segment of the economy that is lagging as the state booms — healthcare.
Brown also agreed with rural officials that classes in the trades and the like need to be held in rural communities because students can’t work all day then drive 50 miles each way to attend class.
Some issues are especially difficult to deal with in rural Nevada, where the base of much of the economy is mining, Brown noted.
“You take mining out of the picture, then you have a very different rural Nevada,” he said. “It’s difficult to do much more in rural Nevada without addressing the problem of broadband.”
Cowee also pointed to the declining populations in rural Nevada. He said Mineral County, for example, has just 4,000 residents.