Welcome Mat: New EDAWN campaign seeks to attract talent as well businesses to region
The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada has been so successful in attracting new companies to northern Nevada over the past four years that it’s time to begin a new focus: attracting talent.
EDAWN has assisted in bringing more than 100 new companies to northern Nevada over the past four years, Chief Executive Officer Mike Kazmierski says. Those companies — from mega-businesses such as Tesla and Switch to dozens of smaller firms such as Cam-Concept and Better World Books — have created thousands of new jobs and helped drive the unemployment rate down from 13 percent in January of 2012 to 5.5 percent in January of 2016.
EDAWN assisted 32 new and expanding companies to the region in 2015, and it expects to assist another 28 to 30 in 2016, including eight headquarters operations. In 2015, 12 companies established headquarters operations in Greater Reno-Sparks. Nearly 40 companies have established headquarters in northern Nevada over the past five-and-a-half years.
EDAWN and its Executive Director of Business Development, Stan Thomas, still will routinely stump across the nation and lure new businesses to the region, but the economic development agency is kicking off a new marketing campaign that focuses on attracting more talented workers to northern Nevada.
It’s an extremely crucial initiative, Kazmierski says.
“We have to attract new talent to the region, or we will soon run out of a trained workforce here in many areas,” he says. “We expect our university and the existing workforce to fill many jobs, but we won’t be successful in attracting new companies in the years ahead if we can’t attract new talent.”
EDAWN will begin its campaign in nearby San Francisco Bay Area and regions of the country with higher unemployment rates. Bringing talented workers into the region requires a much different marketing strategy than working with prospective businesses, Kazmierski says.
“Companies are looking for buildings and business policies, but talent is looking for great jobs and quality of life,” he says. “We are looking at different ways to create our message and attract talent.
“We were all about getting companies to visit, but that now is changing. We have been so successful, and with the help of the Tesla announcement, companies are aware we are a pretty good place to look at. We are now focused on higher-paying jobs. We will continue to attract advanced manufacturing and logistics jobs, but we also are working on technology jobs.”
EDAWN also can be a bit more selective in the companies it tries to bring into the region, he adds. That’s a big switch from just four years ago, when sky-high unemployment rates dominated headlines and the primary focus was new jobs of any type.
Back then, EDAWN averaged about four site visits per month. Now, it’s averaging about 10 site visits each month, says Thomas. More than half of the prospective companies that actually visit northern Nevada end up relocating or starting new operations here, he says.
Thomas routinely stays in touch with about 80 of the top 100 site consultants in the U.S., and he regularly attends different consultant conferences in major cities to nurture new relationships. Those relationships routinely lead to a good deal of new business for northern Nevada.
“The more time you spend with those site guys, and the more they know about your area, the more deals they will bring to you,” Thomas says. “Anywhere from 15 to 18 percent of our deals are tied to consultants, and it’s usually the bigger deals.”
Mega-companies such as Tesla and Switch aren’t often represented by site consultants, he notes, but most of the other large deals that have come this way were represented by some type of consultant.
The key, Thomas says, is getting people to the Reno-Sparks region to see what it offers. Between 60 and 70 percent of prospects that touch down here end up doing a deal.
“What we try to do with everyone one is get them to visit our community and see what it is all about,” he says. “They don’t usually close unless they come to visit, and it usually takes two or three visits to get a deal done.”
Company executives typically meet with leaders at University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College, as well as with officers at existing companies as they feel out the region. They also meet with city and state officials, attorneys, bankers, real estate brokers, and many others. Tours of the area include driving through different residential and industrial areas and looking at various schools in the region.
Of course, incentive packages that sweeten deals are a primary reason many companies look closely at northern Nevada. Incentives come in the form of personal, property, sales and payroll tax abatements, as well as training dollars. Other states — most notably Texas, and Arizona, often beat Nevada’s incentives.
But sometimes the difference lies in the good people of northern Nevada, Thomas notes.
“A lot of these projects are very competitive, and companies are shopping us against other states,” he says. “Everybody in the community has to play their part in order to assist and help companies move here; it’s not just one person. It starts when they jump in a cab and that driver takes them to their hotel, or when they stop and get a sandwich or go out to dinner. The hospitality those people exude reflects real closely on the quality of people here.
“Everybody plays an important role. It takes a team committed to making this happen. It’s not just within EDAWN; it is the people of northern Nevada.”
“We did a lot of very, very difficult evaluation over a very, very short amount of time and just concluded that this was the right thing for the company at large.”