Northern Nevada’s state and local business leaders are working to align industrial interests on a major commercial, travel and housing scale for 2024, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce members heard during the organization’s “Alliance” breakfast Nov. 2.
Presenters shared why ongoing updates to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, local impacts to housing and the economy, and quality of life from tourism’s footprint will help local businesses and families thrive. All shared projections about the growth they expected to see within a few years as airport traffic grows, taxable room revenues have gone up 4.7% and household incomes are increasing in the past decade.
Gov. Joe Lombardo’s Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer provided an overview of the governor’s priorities on regulations. Kieckhefer said a comprehensive review was needed through changes or eliminations of more than 1,000 regulations to maintain ease of business within the state.
Kieckhefer also streamlined licensing to keep Nevada business-friendly, including the modernization of processes so applicants wouldn’t have to continue going through the process repeatedly and without necessity.
Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, featuring his work as chair of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, chair of the Advisory Board on Outdoor Recreation and vice chair of the Board of Transportation, said one of his primary responsibilities is to help make sure people are interested in coming to the Silver State to see all of its premiere destinations. He said in his efforts of outreach to Germany, Mexico City and others, he’s drawing them to Nevada’s diverse ranching lifestyles, learning that “Germans love cowboys,” he said.
“We have some great tourist destinations not only in Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks but in the rest of the state,” Anthony said. “It’s an absolutely wonderful place to visit, and not only are you enjoying those places, but you’re leaving your money behind and that’s the most important thing is to support our tourism industry.”
Projections for Nevada’s tourism success will heavily rely on one of its main partners in the north. Daren Griffin, president and CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, called the airport a “barometer of economic health” and expected growth to nearly double in the next 40 years. RTIA experienced a 2019 passenger count of 4.5 million. Griffin forecast this to exceed 4.7 million through its terminal this year.
“We’ve been shocked, to some degree, at the strength of the return of customers to air travel, shocked and, you know, happy, believe me,” he said. “We are so excited to see this happening. We really think this is a long-term trend for our region — the growth in Northern Nevada, the business growth you all are seeing as businesses.”
Griffin added, the average flight now is 86% full, which airline staff members forewarn before boarding.
It’s all thanks to the region’s enticement as multibillion-dollar real estate investments by national and global companies continue landing here, Griffin said.
“Get used to that,” he said. “That’s just the reality of a busy airport in a community that is growing. We talk a lot about what’s going on in Northern Nevada. We are working hard to add more flights to the airport. We always talk about leisure travel, right? This has been a staple of airport activity for decades here. The great outdoors, the great indoors — the airlines know this, they’re very familiar and it continues to grow here.”
He also covered the ongoing construction projects that are on schedule. Efforts will help get the RTAA staff out of the terminal and allow more space for tenants. A new police station is planned along with two new concourses, Griffin said, and there will be 40% to 50% more space for concessions and an improved technology experience, all of which will cost “approximately a lot of money,” he joked.
The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada’s new president and CEO Taylor Adams quickly has been learning about Northern Nevada’s needs for housing, jobs and infrastructure for the region. Adams told business leaders at the chamber breakfast EDAWN wants to talk about sustainable growth as long as people come to the area that offers the land, water and resources to accommodate their entrepreneurial desires.
“Housing matters, and we’ve got to make sure we have enough land,” Adams said. “We’re just shy of 2,000 units in process, and we’ve got another 25,000 tentative maps in process. I hear we’re growing too fast. This shows that we do have an opportunity to grow responsibly and to grow in way that preserves the pillars of our community.”
Adams, who said he is new to Northern Nevada, said he is interested in making sure he helps preserving one of the key elements most residents love about the area.
“I’m blown away by Northern Nevada’s quality of life,” he said. “I recognize that we have real work to do. I want to make sure we don’t turn 15-minute commutes into one-hour commutes. We have a robust story to tell with this economy.”
Mike Larraguetta, interim CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention Visitors Authority, said the agency continues to draw in more than 60 events each year and has been awarded $5.5 million in funding for events and visitation. He spoke of the convention team’s success with its regional directors who consistently manage to meet or exceed their goals for conventions and room nights. In August, Reno-Tahoe hosted the National Guard Association of the Association with 4,000 attendees and guests generating more than 10,000 room nights.
Larraguetta said next July, the area will host the Imperial Session of Shriners International, expecting to produce more than 11,000 room nights.
Taxable room revenue, the RSCVA’s most important measure it tracks, he said, is up 4.7% from the previous year. The organization has been doing well enough to add a dedicated staff member, a director of event development, who will be tasked to search for new events, expand on current events and bring in new visitation, he said.
Ann Silver, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce CEO, who hosted the event of 500 attendees, said the event’s “Alliance” theme made sense to bring the organizations together to talk about what was happening locally at their level.
“We’re getting new members all the time — up to 2,200 members — and we think we have a big voice in what’s going on,” she said. “And we want to connect businesses and make sure they thrive here, and there’s no reason not to, whether you’re a barbershop or Tesla. I think it’s incredible.”