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Taking aim

John Seelmeyer

The decision by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada to release some preliminary thinking about targeted industries last week was unusual in the economic development business.

But the consulting firm that’s spearheading a big study of the region’s economic future hopes the early release of the information spurs widespread public discussion.

Public support of the direction of economic development is critical, said Ben Loftsgaarden, a project manager with AngelouEconomics, the Texas-based consulting firm that’s working with EDAWN.

“It’s almost as important as having the infrastructure in place to support industrial growth,” Loftsgaarden said. “Businesses like to go somewhere where they feel wanted.”

The targeted industries list prepared by AngelouEconomics ranges from some that are current strengths of the regional economy distribution and logistics, for instance to some such as clean energy technology that are just beginning to appear.

The firm developed its suggested list of industries to target future growth after looking at the industry that’s already here, thecommunity assets that might give a competitive edge to new industry, and the match between the industry’s needs and the community’s desires.

From here, Loftsgaarden said, the community, EDAWN and AngelouEconomics need to focus even more closely on the industries that northern Nevada wants to attract.

Some of the industries targeted by the preliminary study are quite broad “business and financial services,” for instance. But within that industry are some niches such as call centers or back-office financial centers at which northern Nevada might succeed.

By the time the next round of analysis is complete, Loftsgaarden said the consultants and EDAWN hope to have five or six specific targeted industries.

“Ten is still too many to actively target,” he said.

EDAWN executives have said they hope to whittle the list down to five or six by the end of the summer.

In the meantime, AngelouEconomics is studying entrepreneurial activity in the region to see what homegrown industries are likely to develop in the next decade.

As EDAWN and community leaders focus on the target industries, they’ll be working with a set of goals established by the economic development agency’s Target2010 effort late last year goals that include the creation of high-wage jobs, diversification of the region’s economic and retention of the area’s quality of life.

Loftsgaarden noted, however, that the list of targeted industries that will be developed over the next few months isn’t intended to provide an exclusive focus for economic development efforts.

Rather, he said, the list helps establish priorities for work ranging from industrial recruiting trips to development of the curriculum for schools and universities.

Chuck Alvey, president and chief executive officer of EDAWN, reinforced that message.

“We will continue our current business development efforts, those projects in the pipeline and those companies calling on us for business assistance,” he said.

A survey that kicked off the Target2010 project this winter provided some guidance to EDAWN and AngelouEconomics as they work to fine-tune the targeted industries.

Asked what industries they wanted to see in northern Nevada, more than 60 percent of the survey respondents said “clean energy technology.”

Also scoring high were biotech and research operations and software development.

Others industries in the top 10 of residents’ wish list for economic growth included health-care, professional services, tourism, telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing and agriculture.

The target industry is the second of five Target2010 reports. Future reports will include an entrepreneurial and technology assessment, a strategic action plan and a website improvement plan for EDAWN. (You can read the reports at http://www.Target2010.org.)