Low-cost rural development called short-sighted
October 2, 2006
Rural counties that offer cheap land and other incentives to attract businesses may find that those methods backfire, economic development specialists told attendees at the 13th annual Critical Issues Conference in Minden last week.
In a global economy, they said, there will always be someplace that can offer a cheaper alternative.
“You’re positioning yourself for the next guy,” said Ben Loftsgaarden, with Austin, Texas-based AngelouEconomics, an economic development consultancy working on two strategic plans to grow the economy for the region. “Economic development is going to have to be driven from within.”
The conference, which explored the pains and rewards of growth, the region’s water supply and the current economic climate, was sponsored by the Business Council of Douglas County.
Loftsgaarden is project manager for the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada’s Target 2010 economic development plan and the Northern NVision plan funded by the Northern Nevada a big employer to grow the economy has given way to a model that focuses on innovation, regional assets and competitiveness.
“You drive innovation by focusing on your core assets and building on them,” Loftsgaarden said, emphasizing that core assets include those of the entire region as well as those of an individual county or city.
Recommended Stories For You
The attractiveness of the regional community its quality of life, recreational facilities, housing and schools is a core assets that employers and workers consider before they make a move.
“A lot of the new workforce decides where it wants to live and then looks for a job,” said Loftsgaarden. “Together you do have all the assets here. So find commonalities and craft a vision for regional prosperity.”
Loftsgaarden also pointed out the need to create more innovation through increased collaboration.
Fifty percent of U.S. GDP growth is attributed to innovation, according to the Council on Competitiveness. To step up innovation, he said the region needs to understand its key competitive strengths, then focus on key industry sectors and develop a world-class workforce.
“You need to focus on building talent and ideas and, most important, operate regionally. None of the counties (not even Washoe) alone have all of the assets to spur innovation, but together they do.” he said.
Collaborations, Loftsgaarden said, create clusters of innovation that include businesses, research institutions, suppliers and skilled workers.
Though the region excels in some respects, Loftsgaarden said it could do more to encourage entrepreneurial and small business development and research and development. He also said it needs to more actively promote the region’s quality of life to attract young professionals and develop a strong brand image.
Douglas County Manager Dan Holler echoed Loftsgaarden’s words, but said the county has significant revenue challenges ahead, especially as it shifts to a silver-haired economy.
Economists predict that by 2024 much of Northern Nevada the new population will be older and the 55-to-75 demographic will be the largest single age group.
As the population ages the demand for senior services increases, the population has less disposable income, tax revenue declines as seniors tend to spend less money on retail, and there is an increased need for public agency funding.
As a result economists recommend that communities stop chasing tax revenues and pursue economic growth.
“Retail is not economic development,” said Glen Atkinson, a retired economics professor at the University of Northern Nevada.
Holler says that’s a pretty tall order in light of current and future challenges.
“How do we grow these taxes? We don’t want to get into a crisis mode,” said Holler explaining that employee and medical costs and aging and inadequate facilities are not going away.
Though Holler would like to concentrate on building the county’s economic base with higher-paying jobs, he said there is no choice but to chase retail because of limits on other sources of government funding such as property taxes.
“Retail is one-third of our revenue, and we need retail to support our work while building a stronger economic base,” he said. Development Authority. Northern NVision includes Douglas, Carson City, Lyon, Storey, Mineral, Churchill and Pershing counties.