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Area attracts quality growth

John Seelmeyer

The economy of northern Nevada is not only growing rapidly, it’s growing in the right way, says a Florida-based consultant who studies local economies.

William Fruth says his data shows the region has been successful during the past five years in attracting higher paying jobs in basic industries, and those jobs are boosting the entire economy.

“The quality has improved significantly,” Fruth said last week.

“The line is going straight up.”

Fruth, who will keynote the Directions 2004 business forecast in Reno on Jan.

20, said the improvement in the region’s economic quality of life can be traced directly to economic development efforts.

“You’ve developed a trend.

It didn’t happen by accident,” he said, noting that about 65 percent of the metropolitan areas in the United State have seen economic decline in the past seven or eight years.

Washoe County, however, has bucked that trend through the attraction of new jobs and the expansion of existing industries.

But Fruth is quick to note that new jobs alone don’t strengthen a local economy.

His theory is this: Wages in a local economy tend to migrate close to those established by the community’s basic industries, the industries that bring new dollars into town.

That was a problem for northern Nevada during the early 1990s, he said, as gaming was going through a growth spurt.

As gaming grew, it accounted for a larger portion of the basic employment in Washoe County.

“Tourism is, next to retirement, the lowest paying contributing industry,” Fruth said.

“All the lines during the 1990s in Washoe County were heading downhill.” (Retirement communities, he said in a side note, generate lots of service and retail jobs neither of which pay well.)

In fact, Fruth cautioned businesspeople at the Directions 2000 event in Reno four years ago that the northern Nevada economy needed to diversify and reduce its dependence on the gaming industry.

When he returns to Reno this month, Fruth will discuss the growth of the region’s economy over a 30-year span.

A long look, he said, prevents an odd year or two from fouling his analysis.

“A local economy can change quickly,” Fruth said.

“I try to look at a whole bunch of things.”

His firm, Policom Corp., works with local governments and economic development agencies in more than 30 states.

Other speakers at Directions 2004 speakers will include:

* Douglas Kronenberg, chief strategy officer for Lumenos, one of the

country’s leading providers of consumerdriven health care.

* Mary Walshok, PhD., associate vice chancellor for public programs at the University of California San Diego.

* Scott Harriman, senior urban planner for the City of Walnut Creek, Calif.

* A local downtown redevelopment panel featuring Charles McNeely, Reno city manager; Shaun Carey, Sparks city manager and CEO of the Sparks Redevelopment Agency and Joe McCarthy, Carson City economic development and redevelopment manager.

Directions 2004 is co-hosted by the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

Tickets are $50 per person or $60 at the door ($45 each when purchased in groups of five or more).

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 337.3039 or register online at http://www.renosparkschamber.

org or http://www.edawn.org.