Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nevada economic agencies compete for commerce

RENO, Nev. — They may tout the same mission, but some business analysts suggest northern Nevada's economic development agencies need to work together more, and perhaps consolidate, to lure industries and revitalize the state's ailing economy.

The Northern Nevada Development Authority represents Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada covers the Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe region.

Six years ago, the agencies announced a joint operating agreement to pool resources. But it was never approved by EDAWN and NNDA boards, said Chuck Alvey, CEO of EDAWN since 1998.

"They wanted their unique identities," Alvey told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We all got busy with other things."

Pessimism in the recently released Sierra Region Economic Outlook Mid-Year Business Survey has renewed calls for greater unity to "turn this economic beast around," as Northern Nevada Development Authority Executive Director Rob Hooper put it.

"It's a matter of getting everyone on the same page," said Greg Mosier, dean of the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business, one of the survey's sponsors.

"In some ways, they've tried to do that, but it's never been everyone in the room at the same time," Mosier said. "I don't think there's been a team effort so far. It's going to be a train wreck going forward. We've got to say, 'What are we going to do?'"

In summer 2008, the economic development arena was further splintered when Kris Holt, a former head of NNDA, launched Nevada Business Connections, a private Carson City-based group. Holt said it has grown to more than 200 members regionwide.

"I was approached by a dozen local business people who said nothing was going on with economic development," Holt said.

He said he considers his group a complement to NNDA and EDAWN.

"They can go after Fortune 500 companies. That's fine," Holt said. "We're all trying to do the same thing, create jobs. But we're not bound by geographical boundaries."

But Holt also acknowledged there might be too many economic development entities for the region.

"At times, we do cross over. Maybe there needs to be one big group. Really, it makes sense," he said. "There's only so much of the pie out there."

Mike Skaggs, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, said consolidation has been discussed in the past, and he thinks the issue it could emerge during the 2011 Legislature.

He said doesn't see a need for consolidation, but would like better communication between agencies.

"We need all hands on deck in this economic environment," he said. "A 'we're in this together' attitude needs to be fostered."

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal,

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