Study: Seeds of Nevada economic rebirth may be in place
The seeds of Nevada’s future in technology innovation, says a new study, may rest in the industries that have provided the historical basis of its economy gaming, mining and defense.
But facing a strapped state budget, Nevada needs to be smart about attracting federal research dollars and private investments to create new products, new companies and entirely new industries, says the report commissioned by the Nevada Commission on Economic Development.
The analysis was completed by Walt Borland, a former green-energy executive who’s now executive-in-residence at the Nevada Institute of Renewable Energy Commercialization, and James Croce, NIREC’s president and chief executive.
They worked with Richard Seline, principal of Regionnovate LLC, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
They identified five areas in which Nevada has significant expertise that can bring further innovation:
* The computer simulation, modeling and imaging software that’s been created by makers of gaming equipment as well as defense contractors. This might be the seeds of an industry with applications ranging from security to environmental protection to medical diagnosis.
* The engineering skills that have been developed for the state’s big mining and energy projects. “The technologies and knowledge behind compression valves and fluid power units to lift tons of heavy machinery in the geothermal fields of northern Nevada are similar to the staging that lifts actors and acrobats in Cirque du Soleil’s KA,” Borland and Croce wrote.
* The state’s experience with development and operation of renewable energy systems, which can translate into money-making exports of power generated in Nevada as well as development of companies to work with renewable systems elsewhere.
* Skills with mining and metals research, which can be widened to meet demands for advanced materials for electronics, consumer goods and packaging. Additionally, the study says minerals research skills can find use in development of diet and nutrition strategies for people and animals.
* The high-capacity bandwidth installed by the U.S. Energy Department and Defense Department in southern Nevada provides opportunities for testing of complex manufacturing processes or other projects that require big capacity.
Creating commercial concepts from those technologies, the study’s authors said, can help the state overcome its most pressing problem.
“It needs to create more jobs, and preferably new economy jobs that can offer Nevadans higher salaries and better benefits,” Borland, Croce and Seline wrote. “It is time for Nevadans to design, implement and manage their own future rather than letting the future happen to them.”
At the same time, the study acknowledged that the state government has limited money to put into creation of innovation-based industry.
It recommended that the state provide enough dollars to keep university researchers who are producing ideas that might lead to commercialization. And it recommended that the state put money into recruitment of more researchers.
Beyond that, the study recommended that federal research dollars especially from the Department of Defense provide some of the horsepower to move early-stage technologies closer to the market.
The limited use of state money rang a chord with Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development.
“During these challenging economic times, it is even more critical that we wisely spend economic development dollars,” Krolicki said.
The study recommended, too, that business and political leaders work to attract more private-sector capital into the state, along with more management talent to bring promising technologies to reality.
But the state’s leaders should be wary of falling in love with innovation models adopted in other states, the study said. Nevada doesn’t have the money, the depth of academic research or the private investment capacity of other states.
“To go from ‘zero to 60’ through a whole-cloth adoption of the Georgia or Utah models, for example, is likely to be fraught with unintended consequences and unmet expectations,” the study’s authors wrote.
The agreements are designed to split the costs of improvements such as traffic signals between Carson City and developers whose projects generate the traffic increases that trigger the need for improvements.