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Entrepreneur’s creative output: New jobs

John Seelmeyer

David Block plays drums and sings in a country band, Silver Wing, that plays in the Reno-Sparks area a few times each month, and he’s been in the spotlight as a writer and performer for rock and jazz bands as well.

But his creativity takes full flight only when he’s in the offices of Distinction in Design and its sister company, High Sierra Lighting.

A self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Block has been involved in the creation of companies since his early 20s, learning the business of starting business from his entrepreneurial father, Robert.

Together, they were pioneers in the pay-per-view television business. They got involved in the cell phone business when cell phones were still the size of military walkie-talkies. They owned a television station.

Stepping out on his own, David Block launched Distinction in Design a company that creates internally-lit signs for casinos and other customers in 1995.

He had some background in graphic design, and he knew some guys who were experienced in sign production.

“I knew nothing about casinos. I knew nothing about manufacturing,” he says. “That meant I wasn’t intimidated.”

The company got a quick sale to Bally Gaming. Another to Caesar’s Tahoe. And then International Game Technology came on board, and Distinction in Design was making money.

For Block, however, the greatest pleasure didn’t come from growth in the company’s bottom line.

“I enjoy creating jobs,” he says. Distinction in Design and High Sierra Lighting, which handles LED and induction lighting products, employ about 15 these days. He’s also involved in Sunergy, a company that’s developing highly efficient photovoltaic systems.

The demand for creativity has grown as the casino business has slumped and the companies need to search hard for projects to keep its employees busy.

“We’re having to come up with creative solutions and establish new products,” Block says. “I have such a burning desire to make this work that I will dig into my own pocket to keep funding this until we find a solution. Eventually, karma will find a solution.”

Bruce Specter, who works alongside Block as director of business development, marvels at Block’s never-say-die attitude.

“He is truly a study in faith, tenacity and not giving up on his employees,” Specter says.

Block says he combines two roles as president of the companies the vision guy and the financial guy.

“I don’t micromanage,” he says. “I hire people who are good at what they do, people who are self-motivated.”

And the creative vision of his entrepreneurial efforts, he says, almost always is rooted some unlikely combination of factors.

“Things that seem to be unconnected are connected,” he says. “Everything is connected.”

That’s a lesson he learned while he was growing up in Milwaukee, where his father operated an advertising agency and dipped his toes into entrepreneurial waters.

“I come from a very creative, positive, loving family,” Block says.

He attended Arizona State University for three and a half years before answering the call of his father, who had moved to Southern California to launch a pay-per-view business. Block graduated from California State

University, Long Beach, between entrepreneurial efforts.

The family has stayed close. His father and his mother (who died in December) followed Block to Reno. So did a sister.

And although Block is divorced, he takes great pride in the accomplishments of his own children, two boys and two girls aged 10 to 21.

His message to them: “Be a good citizen of the world.”

Block seeks to live his own life the same way setting his sights above the small annoyances that can

clutter daily life.

“Making a difference makes a good day,” he says. “I have to believe there is a higher meaning for all of us.”