Saturday, May 07, 2011

With budget more than halved, EDAWN reevaluates priorities

Written by
Jason Hidalgo

In the world of economic development, three years is a short amount of time.

But for the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, three years feels like a long time ago.

Back in 2007, EDAWN was looking at a budget of $3.39 million -- the largest in its history. This came a year after the organization unveiled its ambitious Target 2010 plan, which was supposed to take economic development in the region to the next level.

Fast forward to 2010 and EDAWN finds its budget slashed by more than half thanks to the economic downturn. Staffing levels also are down sharply, falling from 22 employees to just "six-and-a-half," according to the organization.

Now, EDAWN finds itself struggling to meet the goals of its Target 2010 initiative while justifying its relevance in a business that's all about results.

"If the area is going to be viable economically, you'll need to have someone coordinating most of the economic development efforts," said Chuck Alvey, EDAWN's president and chief executive officer. "I think what EDAWN does is vital in pulling together that community vision. If we're not here, someone else will rise up and do what we're doing now."

Shifting gears

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is a 501 (c) private, not-for-profit company incorporated in Nevada.

Its budget for 2010 is just shy of $1.6 million. About 57 percent of EDAWN's funding comes from state and local government. The rest comes from the private sector, including member banks, hospitals, developers, agencies and other businesses.

Initially, EDAWN's approach to economic development focused on recruiting new businesses to the area. Focusing too much on company recruitment, however, comes with disadvantages, especially for smaller communities that don't have the same financial resources as other areas, said Mark Pingle, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"That type of effort is historically much more effective when coupled with big money incentives," Pingle said. "So, it can be really tough to attract businesses from outside because everyone else is trying to do the same thing. It's better if you can also grow your own companies and develop an environment of entrepreneurship in your area because the money you spend is invested in the community."

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