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Strong growth in jobs projected for northern Nevada

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

Matt Clafton, vice president and general manager with Alston Construction in Reno, expect that his company’s small staff will grow by 20 to 30 percent this year as it handles a growing number of industrial and commercial building projects.

And unlike previous years when employers had a relatively easy time finding workers from a large pool of workers looking for better jobs, Clafton is prepared for a more difficult search in 2015.

The company will be hiring managers to oversee its projects, and its working with a cadre of subcontractors who already are having trouble finding all the skilled tradespeople they need to handle a burst of construction.



Competition for workers, Clafton says, is going to heat up.

“Companies need to protect their valued employees,” he says. “If they don’t they’re going to lose them.”



After years in which the simple creation of jobs was the primary goal in northern Nevada, 2015 promises to be a year in which the region shifts its focus to making sure it has the right sorts of workers to fill thousands of new jobs.

As you may have heard, Tesla expects to bring more than 6,000 jobs to its gigafactory in northern Nevada.

Economic development executives say it’s possible that companies other than Tesla could bring just as many jobs to the region in the next year or so, essentially doubling the economic bang.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada counts nearly 6,500 jobs at the companies it considers hot prospects for the region, says Mike Kazmierski, president and chief executive officer of the job-creation agency.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that 70 percent of those jobs — roughly 4,500 — will actually land in the region, Kazmierski says.

And as the year wound to a close, EDAWN was scheduling press conferences for at least 10 companies that plan to bring more than 1,200 jobs to Reno, Sparks and Storey County.

“We’re incredibly busy beyond Tesla,” says Kazmierski. “We’re going 90 miles an hour when everyone else in the country is going 55, and that gets people’s attention.”

The story is similar at Northern Nevada Development Authority, which works to develop jobs in Carson City and Churchill, Lyon, Douglas and Storey counties.

“We have seen a significant upswing in requests for information about Northern Nevada and have experienced an increase in business development activities in recent months which points to a very busy year in 2015,” says Rob Hooper, the executive director of NNDA.

Because both EDAWN and NNDA focus on primary jobs — the jobs that bring fresh dollars into the area elsewhere in the world — each of the positions created by newly arrived companies will spill over into new positions in retail and service industries.

Nevada is projected to generate between 35,000 and 45,000 new jobs statewide in 2015, which is similar to the pace it set this year.

“We’re forecasting broad-based growth, but growth that is more sustainable than what we saw before the recession,” says Bill Anderson, an economist the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

During the peak years before the recession, the state was creating 60,000 jobs annually — but many of those were construction positions that vaporized with the onset of the economic downturn.

The hiring will cut across a wide swath of sectors, one position at a time.

Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation in Reno, for instance, expects to hire a part-time staff member as it expands its service to include young people through their 24th birthday.

Executive Director Debbie Strickland says she’ll be looking for a worker with remarkably wide skills.

“The challenge is to find an individual that has skills in social work but is also willing to jump in when needed in fundraising or working with volunteers, “ she says. “We do not have the luxury to have a specialty in one area.”

The rapid growth in employment in 2015 will come on the heels of strong growth this year.

The Reno-Sparks region added more than 6,000 jobs in the last 12 months, according to the most recent count by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. Carson City added another 500 jobs.

And the trend appears have legs.

Kazmierski says EDAWN is hosting an average of 11 visits a month by companies looking to establish facilities in the region. That’s nearly triple the number of visits as recently as 2011, and EDAWN officials have said corporate executives who visit the region are highly likely to decide to build facilities here.

But it takes a while. Typically, Kazmierski says, 18 months elapse between a visit to the region and the first paychecks to newly employed workers.

Although the pool of jobless workers has shrunk rapidly, Kazmierski says none of the companies with which EDAWN is working have sounded an alarm about their ability to find workers.

Still, EDAWN will be paying more attention next year to workforce development, the agency’s CEO says.

NNDA’s Hooper says workforce development is a priority, and his organization is working to get ahead of the demand for skilled workers.

“We are seeing a complete reversal from a few years ago. Companies are finding it more and more difficult to find qualified employees to fill increasingly technical jobs,” Hooper says.

And the natural flow of workers to locations where jobs are plentiful already is beginning to materialize, says an executive with a major national staffing agency.

George Fincher, a director of business operations for Aerotek in Nevada, says the company’s recruiters are handling an increasing number of calls from people in other states who want to learn more about job opportunities in northern Nevada.

Fincher says that the combination of expansion of existing companies and the arrival of major new employers is creating demand for skilled tradespeople as well as professionals in fields such as customer service.