Secret to recruiting? Prospects have to see Reno first-hand |

Secret to recruiting? Prospects have to see Reno first-hand

Anne Knowles

A trip is worth a thousand words.

As northern Nevada recruiters work to woo prospects — be it a business, an event, an employee or a college student — a site visit is key to clinching the deal.

The reason? Reno is less known than Las Vegas and nearby Bay Area, and unflattering misconceptions about the area fill the vacuum.

The most important metric for economic development in Reno-Sparks is the number of prospects who get here for a visit, says Mike Kazmierski, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. He says Reno makes businesses’ relocation short lists about 80 percent of the time after a visit, which is why EDAWN has worked to increase company site trips from 4.2 visits a month in 2011 to 10.2 monthly visits now.

“We surprise them to the upside,” Kazmierski says.

For many businesses, the misapprehension is Reno is a party town and little else. That’s why EDAWN this year launched an effort to replace bar-and-brothel taxi top ads with ads for other businesses and local sites such as the Nevada Museum of Art.

It’s also why EDAWN was particularly pleased to land the Apple Inc. data center, which Kazmierski says confirms the area as a serious place to do business.

For those looking for some fun with their business, Reno can be mistaken as a pale imitation of Las Vegas.

“They think it’s a small Las Vegas so might as well go to the big one,” says Christopher Baum, president and CEO of the the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority.

About four years ago, the RSCVA formalized a program now called “Come See, Fly Free” to bring qualified event planners to town and now hosts dozens of trips a year.

“It’s not unusual for pay for planners to come. We just gave it a name and a brand for a destination that is not as well known,” says Baum. “We find our closing percentage when we get someone out for a visit is much higher.”

Recent successes resulting from the program include booking conventions with Amway and the American Gas Association, says Baum.

The program especially helps inform those organizers who have no impression of Reno or northern Nevada.

“The real challenge is they don’t know the capabilities we have,” says Baum. “The hotels, the convention center, the direct service at the airport. There’s a void in their knowledge of the area.”

For Renown Health, which doesn’t hire anyone without an in-person visit, recruiting takes talking about what Reno isn’t as much as what it is, says Michelle Sanchez-Bickley, vice president of human resources.

“We talk a lot about the community, the events, outdoors and the quality of life, especially with people from congested areas. It’s a huge plus for this area,” she says. “The key is talking about our lifestyle here and how easy it is to get around.”

Renown has turned to social media to get the word out. The hospital created a Reno Pinterest site and directs prospects to videos about the area on youtube.

The University of Nevada, Reno, relies on social media, too, and refers students looking at the school to a UNR youtube channel and a virtual tour of the campus available online at Both show the tree-filled campus, city attractions and outdoor recreation and help to dispel the misconception that Reno is barren desert, a colder Las Vegas, says Adam Stoltz, associate director of admissions at UNR.

But it doesn’t replace the real-world visit. The school hosts more than a dozen Nevada Bound events a year, in which possible recruits spend a Friday touring the campus, visiting with various colleges and eating in the cafeteria. For the most recent event on Nov. 22, UNR flew in 134 students from Las Vegas and another 133 from outside the state. Five years ago, says Stoltz, the typical Nevada Bound event hosted half as many students.

The university also utilizes a cloud-based recruitment system called TargetX and a call center that makes 62,000 outbound calls a year to prospective students.

“We’re having some record-breaking years in terms of visits,” says Stoltz.

The result of all these efforts is record-breaking enrollment, too, for the last four years.