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Companies’ internal growth driving employment gains

John Seelmeyer

Much of the recent growth in employment in the Reno-Sparks region has come from expansion of existing employers, and a new survey of technology and financial services companies indicates that internally driven growth will remain important.

Out of the 28 companies that created new jobs in the region during the 12-month period that ended June 30, 17 already had operations in the region, executives of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada said last week.

Nine of the companies were new to the region, and two were start-ups.

The companies added 659 jobs, and their first-year economic impact was estimated at nearly $162 million, said Chuck Alvey, the president and chief executive officer of EDAWN.

Slightly more than 200 of the new jobs fall into what EDAWN calls “high-yield” employment jobs that pay at least 15 percent more than the state average, carry good benefits or come from companies that make significant contributions to the community.

Those high-yield jobs will generate first-year economic impact of about $78 million. That’s 48 percent of the total impact of the new employment, even though the high-yield positions accounted for only 32 percent of the jobs counted by EDAWN during its fiscal year.

More than two-thirds of the jobs came in industries that EDAWN has targeted as key for the region’s success. Those industries range from financial services to advanced logistics to clean energy.

Donna Parsons, business development manager for EDAWN, noted that nine of the 28 companies that added employment didn’t fall within the agency’s targeted categories.

“We’re still working with anyone who calls in,” she said.

She said EDAWN currently is working with about 100 companies that have expressed some level of interest in expansion or new facilities in northern Nevada. About a half dozen of them, she said, appear to be near a decision.

In some instances, she said companies view the current economic climate as an opportunity to acquire real estate at good prices. Others are positioning themselves to move quickly when the economy recovers.

Many of the companies looking at the region, she said, currently have operations in California. And nearly all of them are small and mid-sized employers.

A survey by EDAWN’s Business Builders volunteers, meanwhile, found that companies in the financial services, life sciences and software industries in the region expect to continue growing.

Twenty of those companies expect to add a total of nearly 550 jobs, occupy about 100,000 square feet of new space and complete capital investments of $39.1 million in the next three years.

Tracey Buxton, who manages the Business Builders program, said expanding companies continue to cite workforce recruitment as a significant worry.

She said the survey conducted during the second quarter of this year found that relatively few of the financial, software and life sciences employers regularly recruit graduates of the University of Nevada, Reno, or Truckee

Meadows Community College. That information will further spur efforts to build linkages between the schools and businesses in the region.

A mid-August workshop developed by EDAWN on ways to recruit from campuses in the region drew about 150 business representatives.

Business Builders volunteers now are gearing up to survey companies in the advanced logistics, advanced manufacturing and clean energy segments of the regional economy. That survey will be completed in early 2009.