Business leaders share visions of Nevada’s future at Directions 2017 |

Business leaders share visions of Nevada’s future at Directions 2017

By Marcus Villagran
Closing remarks from Tim Crowley, board chair of The Chamber, at Directions 2017.
Marcus Villagran | NNBW

Nevada leaders already know the future is bright, but now they’re looking to define a clear vision for what that means.

With Nevada’s continued growth, speakers at Directions 2017 sought to highlight the opportunities Nevada has going forward — as well as draw attention towards some issues Nevada may face with this growth.

“Our vision… is to support local creative economies, attract talent and investment in neighborhoods and preserve the essential qualities that make each local community unique,” said Mo Mullen, director of business development for the local West Elm, on her vision for Nevada.

Mullen was only one of eight guest speakers at the event. Topics included health, education, ethnic diversity, workplace innovation, creative urban revitalization and more.

Hundreds of business leaders and professionals attended The Chamber of Reno, Sparks, and Northern Nevada’s 30th annual economic outlook event in the Reno Ballroom, Wednesday. The event was emceed by Sara Johns of KOLO 8.

Tom Murphy, former mayor of Pittsburgh, Pa., and senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, stressed the importance of the direction of Nevada’s urban revitalization in his talk. He gave sharp words on the consequences of going easy on Nevada’s change.

“If we aren’t willing to upgrade our city entrances, the Reno arch should say ‘welcome to a mediocre city,’” said Murphy.

Matt Sweeney, CEO and co-founder of Flirtey, a new drone-delivery company with headquarters in Reno, also spoke at the event. Sweeney covered Flirtey’s journey to Reno and the company’s desire to cultivate and hire local Reno talent.

“One thing we’re really keen on doing is building a greater presence and relationship with the local community,” reflected Sweeney following the event. “So coming to an event like Directions helps us to build that relationship.”

Mike Kazmierski, CEO of EDAWN, covered Nevada’s growth over the years. According to a recent study by Gallup, Nevada was ranked number one in the United States for job growth in 2016. This is a significant climb from last place six years ago. Kazmierski also warned that housing development was lagging behind population growth.

Frederick A. Steinmann, assistant research professor and leadership and economic development specialist at UNR, gave insight into the growing diversity northern Nevada is projected to have, the aging population, the rural vs. urban dichotomy in the area and wealth disparity.

“We need to maintain and protect the identity of our individual local communities that makes our local community unique and distinguishable from other communities in northern Nevada,” said Steinmann.

If northern Nevada’s population is growing and aging then Dr. Anthony Slonim, president and CEO of Renown, is working to find ways to keep the population healthy. He shared information on the population health study that he’s been working on in collaboration with Desert Research Institute and 23andMe, a leading genetics company.

10,000 people signed up for the study in just 48 hours. Dr. Slonim hopes the project will help identify the genetic predispositions to disease and illness, such as Alzheimer’s and Cancer.

Other speakers at the event included Mark Hutchison, Nevada lieutenant governor, who talked about his experience as a politician over the past several years and the upcoming session of the Nevada legislature which begins Monday, Feb. 6.

“Of all those issues that are brought before us… most of those, not all of them, most of those can be solved by one or two things, a good job and a strong family” said Hutchison.

Manny Lamarre, director of the office of workforce innovation, OWINN, shared some of the work that the government organization, created by Governor Sandoval, has been doing. One of his key initiatives was to get employers more involved in the education process in order to improve the career readiness of young Nevadans. This would allow individuals in high school to get credits and work experience.

“We can no longer work in silos in the context of education, K-12 does one thing, higher-ed does one thing,” said Lamarre. “We have to engage employers in that process.”

The event also had around 30 booths representing companies and organizations from both the public and private sector. This included Northern Nevada Business Weekly, RTC, TMCC, Office Depot, Nevada Mining Association, Young Professionals Network, Reno-Tahoe International Airport and more.

The event was organized by The Chamber and is the first Directions event with Ann Silver as the Chamber CEO. Silver gave opening remarks. Tim Crowley, Chamber board chairman provided the closing remarks.

Lamarre of OWINN shared his impressions of the event, “I was really inspired by their openness and willingness to embrace the change and welcome the growth.”

To watch the talks at Directions 2017, visit