Business and Industry director set to improve on success
September 10, 2017
Starting a new job is a good way to mark the day after Labor Day.
And when the job involves helping job providers go into and stay in business, so much the better.
CJ Manthe took this step last Tuesday when she took over as director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, replacing long-time B&I head Bruce Breslow.
In turn, Breslow went to work at the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.
Gov. Brian Sandoval announced both appointments Aug. 21.
Manthe – a certified public accountant with a long history of government service – comes to the B&I directorship by way of the Nevada Housing Division, which she headed for the past three years, having served as the Nevada Rural Housing Authority's deputy director and then chief financial officer for the prior decade.
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"Bruce has left me a very well-oiled machine; a very successful leadership group; and he has expanded the resources here that are available for businesses," Manthe said the week before the turnover. "So my goal is to make sure that we do additional outreach. I think that there might be a little more for us to do to make sure that businesses that want to grow or be created here in Nevada have access to capital."
Providing access to capital is one of Manthe's strong suits. During her time as Nevada's housing administrator, she dramatically expanded the number of homebuyers helped with mortgage- and down-payment assistance – without having to take money from the state's coffers – through its suite of programs collectively called Home Is Possible.
"The Housing Division helped maybe a few hundred Nevada families become homeowners before I came on board," Manthe said. "Now, we're helping more than 6,500 families a year. That's been exponential growth, and I think that's where the Housing Division needed to be."
Manthe's work was in large part responsible for the division's recognition in April as 2016's No. 1 state housing agency by U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, along with other awards.
With this history of success, Manthe – formerly a county commissioner in Wisconsin and a city council member in Washington state – is expected to build on the accomplishments of Breslow, who set a record for time in office during his five-year directorship.
When Breslow – who started his government career as mayor of Sparks in the 1990s – took over, he discovered why most B&I directors stay in the job for a little less than two years.
"It was a bit overwhelming, because you're responsible for everything," he said.
"Everything" in B&I includes 14 divisions and 12 boards, commissions and advisory committees, including such groups as the Nevada Athletic Commission and the state's Taxicab Authority.
"And you manage a wide variety of people," he said. "It's nonstop from the moment you wake up to when you face-plant in bed at the end of the day."
Breslow's immediate challenge was to improve the way B&I fulfilled its assigned duties.
As he discovered in his previous job – director of the Department of Motor Vehicles – B&I's institutional focus was on enforcing regulatory violations and turning away applicants with faulty paperwork, rather than on seeing their jobs from a consumer-assistance viewpoint.
"We needed to change the face of our department," said Terry Reynolds, B&I's deputy director.
"You try to work with business, you try to help them out, you tell them, 'OK, here's what we can do, here's what you can do,' and produce an atmosphere where they can be successful," Reynolds said.
As he did at the DMV, Breslow set out to talk with each employee about changing their focus from punishing non-compliance to helping businesses get started and keep going.
"If you want to try to improve processes across the board, you have to take a good hard look into the weeds of everything," Breslow said. "You learn what your people do, understand what they do, look at the tools they have, look at the processes and then see where things can improve."
Breslow also made some of B&I's agencies – such as the Nevada Athletic Commission – self-funded, rather than drawing from the general fund, and moved various B&I offices in Northern and Southern Nevada into more-convenient locations: a multi-building complex on East College Parkway in Carson City and the Nevada State Business Center on West Sahara Boulevard in Las Vegas.
The start of Manthe's term in office brings hopes of similar success.
"CJ will take what Bruce has done and make it even better. She's always looking for ways to improve things," said Edward Estipona, president and CEO of the Estipona Group marketing agency, who has promoted state projects with both Manthe and Breslow.
"Both of them are phenomenal individuals; I don't have to worry about doing a political dance with them," Estipona said.