Local gaming industry remains upbeat | nnbw.com

Local gaming industry remains upbeat

John Seelmeyer

Despite well-publicized challenges facing their industry, representatives of the gaming and tourism business in Washoe County remain cautiously optimistic.

A survey of 33 companies in the industry by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada found the companies plan to add 115 jobs, build 110,000 square feet of new space and invest $18.9 million during the next three years.

Compared to other industries surveyed by EDAWN in the last year, those expectations are modest.

Manufacturing companies, for instance, told EDAWN survey teams that they plan to add more than 1,800 jobs and invest $55 million during the next three years.

Financial and logistics firms, meanwhile, expect to add about 650 jobs and invest $40 million.

The survey team didn’t expect to find even modest optimism in the gaming and tourism sector.

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“I’m surprised about the level of optimism,” said Gail Conkey, EDAWN’s director of business services.

“People see progress in the big picture.”

The key element in the big picture, she said, is the effort by state and regional officials to reposition the state’s tourism industry – placing less emphasis on gaming and more on outdoor adventure.

Along with hotels and casinos, the survey covered museums and recreational outfits such as ski areas and golf courses.

Among the 33 companies surveyed by Conkey and EDAWN volunteers, 16 percent said they expect to add jobs in the next three years and 82 percent said they expect their workforce to be stable.

Executives in the industry gave high marks to their workers.

They said productivity is well above average while stability is above average.

Conkey said employers often believe the workforce in Washoe County is highly transient, but EDAWN’s surveys haven’t found any basis for that belief.

At the same time, tourism and gaming executives said they’re having trouble finding experienced technical people and experienced professionals in their industry.

The region’s quality of life ranked high among tourism and gaming executives as a reason to do business here.

That followed the path set by manufacturing, finance and logistics executives.

The tourism executives, however, gave much more importance to the business climate than their counterparts in other businesses.

“A small town feel a handshake still means something,” one executive said.

At the same time, a strong majority said better vision is needed in Reno, with a particular emphasis on reducing the blight of downtown Reno.