Development, cannabis among economic topics discussed at May 3 event
May 4, 2018
RENO, Nev. — As the silence stretched out, the laughter in the room grew.
During the Q-and-A portion of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly's Breakfast & Business event centered on Nevada's economic development, an attendee asked the panelists if they are 1) willing and 2) able to work with cannabis-related companies that might be interested in operating in Nevada.
Cory Hunt, deputy director of the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development, eventually broke the silence.
"If you qualify for incentives, you qualify for incentives," said Hunt, referring to the GOED's variety of abatements that are offered to help companies decide to do business in the Silver State. "There are some companies that are actually looking at testing, and we're working with those sorts of companies that do verification of quality of the (cannabis) strains and those certain things.”
The rise in the cannabis industry was just one of many topics covered at the NNBW Breakfast & Business event, held Thursday, May 3, at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. Roughly 200 residents and business leaders attended the monthly event.
Along with the GOED's Hunt, the event featured speakers Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO at Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN); Lynn O'Mara, director of economic development at the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA); Nathan Strong, executive director at Churchill Economic Development Authority (CEDA); and Bill Thomas, assistant city manager at the city of Reno.
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Thomas Harris, director of the University of Nevada, Reno's Center of Economic Development, served as the moderator.
All of the speakers highlighted the growth of Northern Nevada's economy, but also spoke to the subsequent challenges that stem from that growth. Two of the most common issues raised were the lack of affordable housing and workforce development.
"We just need to build more," Kazmierski said in a post-event interview with the NNBW. "We have lagged and not met the demand over the last several years, which has caused prices to go up. It's a simple economics equation: supply and demand, and we have more demand now than we have supply."
The shortage of construction workers and lack of youth filling their boots has played a major role, he added.
"Let's face it, if you walk up to a hundred fifth graders and say, 'what will you do when you grow up?' none of them will say, 'I want to be a construction worker,'" Kazmierski said. "But construction workers in the future will not necessarily be what they were in the past as we change that industry to be more effective and build houses quicker with less people and hopefully less costs."
Another point of emphasis was how water impacts the region's economic development.
"We make sure we don't draw high-water users here," said Thomas with the city of Reno. "There's a conscious effort on the part of government and our partners to make sure that's not the kind of business that we draw here."
Thomas also said the region has a water system that allows for up to a 9-year drought.
"The longest drought we've ever seen is eight years," he said. "So our system is very developed, very complex, and I would argue probably puts us in a leading position."
Hunt said the state is working in partnership with local governments on an innovative water reuse project. He said the treated water affluent that normally goes back into the Truckee River would be piped the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center for use in industrial applications.
Hunt said the state has worked with agencies like the Desert Research Institute to inspect the quality of that water and see how it would affect manufacturing equipment.
"We've shown companies the data that shows it won't impact their equipment," Hunt added.
In addition, Hunt said, companies like Tesla are doing their own on-site water treatment, recycling and reuse.
The NNBW's Breakfast & Business Event Series takes place from 7-9 a.m. the first Thursday of every month at the Atlantis, focusing on trends, economic development, challenges and opportunities facing the Northern Nevada business community.
Visit nnbw.com/nnbw-events to learn more about the series and other NNBW events.