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Tourism may lead recovery of Nevada’s economy

Pat Patera

Tourism is the potential bright spot in a state economy beset by troubles.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki says the weak U.S. dollar is a boon to Nevada’s tourism industry, and Reno is positioned to become Asia’s gateway to the West.

“It’s cheaper to fly from Asia to Reno than to Los Angeles,” he says, because it’s closer and fuel costs are less.

Krolicki spoke to the Douglas County Critical Issues Conference last week in Minden. The Business Council of Douglas County produces the annual event.

Already, he said, nine of 10 Chinese tourists who visit the United States come to Nevada. And those tourists are delighted when they venture out into the rural counties, an area he called “the Wild West they’ve seen on Bonanza.” Nevada Commission on Tourism explored ways to do that at its annual Rural Roundup.

Meanwhile, Krolicki eyes an even bigger tourist bonanza: The possibility that the 2018 Winter Olympic Games might come to the Reno-Tahoe area.

The Reno Tahoe Winter Game Coalition is poised to move on the project, he said, once the Olympic site selection committee selects a site for the 2016 summer games.

(Four finalists for the summer games are being considered Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo with the decision announced this time next year. The games would not be staged in the United States twice in a row.)

And while Reno would need to build a world-class ice facility to accommodate the games, Krolicki said the needed infrastructure improvements and construction, if handled correctly, could result in profit rather than a loss.

Over the long-term, the state’s economy also may be strengthened by its leadership in renewable energy,

the lieutenant governor said. He envisions development of a 50-square-mile solar farm that could power the West.

In the near term, however, the economic outlook appears bleak.

“Lock yourself in a closet for the next year with no radio or television,” Krolicki advised conference attendees. “Business is not good right now. Financial markets are in dire straits. The state’s economy is dire. This hole could be a whole lot deeper before we start digging out.”

Already, the state’s economy has been on the downslide for a year, said Keith Schwer, director of business and economic research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“October 2007 was the peak of the economy. It’s been in decline since,” he told the conference.

Krolicki summed up: Following a decade-long climate of irrational exuberance, “We need to coin a new term to describe the current mindset: Irrational malaise.”