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NNBW Editor Column: The summer of economic discontent in Northern Nevada

Kevin MacMillan

kmacmillan@nevadanewsgroup.com

Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
File photo

RENO, Nev. — This past Thursday afternoon, I watched Gov. Steve Sisolak’s press conference regarding Phase 1 of his “Roadmap to Recovery for Nevada” with equal parts hope and apprehension.

With certain businesses in Nevada getting the green light to reopen as early as Saturday — with important restrictions in place, of course — it marks the official start of “reopening Nevada’s economy.”

Finally, a glimmer of hope for thousands of employment-starved Nevadans who might be part of the lucky bunch enabled to work again as early as this week. A glimmer of hope for, should plateauing COVID-19 cases continue to decline, a potential post-Memorial Day rebound (however small) for the Silver State’s decimated hospitality and tourism industry. A glimmer of hope for even an inkling of a return to normal for the thousands of workers who’ve been lucky enough to stay employed while working from home.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

I like to live my life as much as possible on the positive end of the spectrum. After all, it wasn’t more than 2 months ago when I first wrote about the pandemic with the notion that, “this too shall pass.”

Still, it wasn’t more than 2 hours after Sisolak’s press conference when that feeling of apprehension reared its unfortunate head again, once news surfaced that the Reno Rodeo Association was canceling this year’s rodeo.

Just like that, one of Northern Nevada’s biggest summer events, attracting more than 140,000 fans and stimulating the local economy with an estimated $42 million annually, became the latest revenue-earning casualty of the ongoing pandemic.

Forty-two million bucks. Gone in a flash. And it’s just the tip of the economic iceberg.

A few weeks before Sisolak’s press conference, the Burning Man Project announced the cancellation of this year’s counterculture extravaganza in Black Rock City. Aside from the major “bummer” factor for regional Burners, the economic fallout could be devastating.

Media reports indicate the event pumps more than $60 million into the local economy each year, not to mention the impacts the event has at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which won’t see the usual 20,000-plus travelers around Labor Day weekend this year.

Considering we’ve seen countless other events canceled across the greater Reno-Tahoe region and entire industries flung into economic catastrophe (go here just one example of the trickle-down effect the pandemic will have on the region’s arts and entertainment sectors), Thursday’s announcements represented the imperfect dichotomy of our current reality: even as the economy begins to reopen, the road to recovery will be a long and painful one.

Sorry to be a part-time sourpuss, but I feel it is monumentally important for people to understand that while our economic future may eventually stabilize, it surely won’t happen overnight, despite some of the prognostications you’ll hear from politicians or Wall Street investors trying to downplay the impact.

Sure, this too shall pass, but as far as the 2020 summer season across greater Reno-Tahoe, it’s sure shaping up to be a dreary one. The question now becomes, what impacts will millions in lost economic injections have on 2021 and beyond? Time will tell. 

Yet, glimmers of hope still shine through. Take, for example, the following “good news” stories we published this week:

Indeed, as important as it is for people to understand our current reality, it’s equally important to put a spotlight on the great things happening within Northern Nevada’s business community and to celebrate those successes. It’s all about striking the right balance.

So, as businesses begin to reopen, I err on the side of hope when it comes to Nevadans being wise enough to take things slow and do their best to ensure we don’t have a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases this summer.

To borrow another famous saying from Dr. King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. Email him at kmacmillan@nevadanewsgroup.com