State’s new job-creation effort takes its next step | nnbw.com
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State’s new job-creation effort takes its next step

John Seelmeyer

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s designation of 10 regional economic authorities to spearhead job-creation fundamentally changes the financial relationship between the state and groups such as the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

Steve Hill, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said last week that state officials already are working more closely with regional agencies to rebuild Nevada’s economy.

The Office of Economic Development in late March called for proposals from groups to act as regional development authorities.

A few days ago, it said that it selected these groups to work as development authorities in northern Nevada:

EDAWN, the Northern Nevada Development Authority headquartered at Carson City, the Highway 95 Regional Development Authority in Fallon and Mineral and Pershing counties, the Elko County Economic Diversification Authority, the Humboldt Development Authority, the Lander County Economic Development Authority and the White Pine County Economic Diversification Council.

That list may change soon, Hill said, as Lander and Elko county officials are discussing a collaborative effort. State economic officials, he said, strongly encouraged those talks.

Here’s what different with the new plan:

In the past, Hill said, the big economic development agencies such as EDAWN received state funds with few strings attached.

With the new designation, the state requires more metrics, better-defined plans and a more structured approach to the business of creating jobs.

“When you start measuring things, you start paying attention to them,” the economic development chief said.

He said that EDAWN and NNDA, as well as the organizations in rural areas, have worked hard to get community involvement in their planning efforts.

“They’ve put some really solid plans together and broadened the effort,” Hill said.

Rob Hooper, executive director of NNDA, said the Carson City group put its experience as a volunteer-driven, multi-county development effort to work as it developed its proposal to the state.

NNDA works to create jobs in Carson City as well as Douglas, Lyon and Churchill counties. It has a staff of three fulltime and one-parttime workers, and relies largely on 13 committees of volunteers to work with new and expanding companies.

Hooper said NNDA has fielded 135 inquiries in the last 14 months that led to 18 company relocations to the Sierra region as well as three corporate expansions. The net effect has been creation of 572 jobs.

Hill said NNDA isn’t alone in handling a big workload with a small staff.

“We all have limited resources,” he said. “We’ll be working a lot more closely with one another.”

He noted, for instance, that the Governor’s Office on Economic Development already has stepped up its connections with the state’s university system in the search for new research that provide the basis for start-up companies.

And EDAWN, in turn, has committed that its new vice president of entrepreneurial development, Doug Erwin, will spend a couple of days a week at the University of Nevada, Reno, to help with the technology-transfer effort.

“We’re working a lot more closely with the university system,” Hill said.

He said the state’s re-energized economic development efforts also are drawing significant support from the education community as well as business leaders.

He noted, too, that agencies such as EDAWN didn’t stop their work of recruiting new companies and retaining existing jobs during the months that much of their attention was focused on developing a proposal to the state.

“EDAWN has been doing some really great work,” Hill said.