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EDAWN rises to a challenge

John Seelmeyer

With a goal of doubling its best year ever, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is muscling up.

In recent weeks, EDAWN added to its staff two top names in the Reno-area business community Gail Conkey and Julie Ardito.

Conkey, who previously headed marketing for Port of Subs and recently completed a term as president of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, will spearhead EDAWN’s effort to retain existing businesses.

Ardito, who most recently was senior vice president and director of public relations at Rose/Glenn Group, hired on as director of public relations with EDAWN.

And EDAWN expects to announce soon that it’s hired a new business development manager to further spur its efforts to attract new companies to the region.

Chuck Alvey, president and chief executive of the economic development agency, said EDAWN’s board has a straightforward goal: Double the $188 million in economic impact achieved by EDAWN two years ago and reach the goal within five years.

To do so, he said, EDAWN needs to increase the resources it devotes to building the economy of western Nevada.

A large part of that effort will fall on the shoulders of Conkey, who will spearhead a year-old effort to address the needs of existing businesses and keep them from leaving.

“We need to take care of what we’ve got,” Alvey said.

Conkey and a cadre of about 90 trained volunteers will interview business through EDAWN’s Business Builders program in an effort to learn what needs those existing employers might have.

She said the Business Builders program will be focused on industry groups finance and logistics are current targets and EDAWN will present industry- specific findings and make industryspecific recommendations each quarter.

EDAWN then will work with industry associations to find solutions.

Ardito, meanwhile, will head a beefed-up effort to garner free publicity to woo businesses that might consider Reno as a home.

“PR and media coverage always has a higher return than paid advertising,” said Alvey.

The third piece of the stepped-up effort will come with the hiring of a

new business development manager.

Alvey said Lisa Plummer, EDAWN’s director of new business development, has been aggressively courting businesses around the country, and EDAWN in recent months has seen the fruit of that work.

“In the last six to eight months, it’s been coming at us hard,” Alvey said.

The new employee will help Plummer field that flood of calls.

The pace of inquiries is likely to increase, he said, as businesses in California increasingly realize the full effect of higher workers compensation and utilities cost.

EDAWN and other economic development agencies in the state have launched an aggressive advertising campaign encouraging California businesses to take a look at the savings involved in a move to Nevada.

The beefed-up EDAWN comes with a price tag as the agency’s budget this year will be about $1.3 million compared with $1.1 million a year ago.With the additions, EDAWN will have a staff of 11.

Dues paid by member businesses haven’t gone up in five years, Alvey said, and EDAWN will cover the higher cost with the proceeds of special events and other steps such as higher advertising rates in its publications.

EDAWN also is stepping up its service to members the Business Builders program is a high-profile example and Alvey said, “People will see value in EDAWN.” As it calculates the economic impact of its work, the measuring stick that EDAWN has chosen to determine if its expansion is successful, the agency uses a sophisticated software program.When the number and types of jobs from a new company are entered into the software, the program calculates the effects as they

ripple through the local economy.


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