Western Nevada economy: ‘No better place to be’
The head of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development said Wednesday with the influx of manufacturing and high tech companies coming to western Nevada, “there is simply, right now in the United States, no better place to be.”
Steve Hill told the monthly breakfast meeting of the Northern Nevada Development Authority the boom can and should continue “for some time,” but there’s a potential problem.
“The only thing holding them back right now is, frankly, finding the workforce to do it,” he told the audience at the Carson Nugget.
Hill was joined in that assessment by Rob Hooper, head of NNDA.
He said there’s a lot of interest from companies looking at this area.
“Any manufacturer, the very first thing that comes up is workforce,” he said. “Can you provide us the employees we need to operate our business properly?”
Hill said western Nevada has established itself as the area “where the manufacturing, the testing, the product development and expansion that is often invested and designed in Silicon Valley should take place.”
“We are partners with Silicon Valley at this point. Silicon Valley and the Seattle region see Northern Nevada as the place to be for part of what they do,” he said. “That’s the sort of opportunity that I think is going to last for decades.”
But he said that’s contingent on being able to provide the skilled workers those high tech companies need.
“We need to continue to develop the workforce or we’re going to put a cap on this progress,” he said.
He said a key to that is the workforce Innovation for a New Nevada (WINN) program he said is, “designed to help people quickly get into the jobs that are coming to the region.”
The most important part of that program, he said, is the scholarship money to pay for that training through certificate programs that, within six months, can have a worker in a position that pays $45,000-$50,000 a year.
“There’s a huge demand out there for these jobs,” he said.
Hooper said Western Nevada College’s certification programs are expanding to train people for advanced manufacturing jobs.
But he said the area also needs more industrial space for these new and expanding companies. He said the industrial property vacancy rate has fallen from 26 percent in 2010 to just 3 percent right now.
“The space we have is gone,” he said. “We’re down to the place where we need to build more.”
He said NNDA is working with area officials to get ahead on the environmental, zoning and other permitting necessary to make sure those sites are there. He said they’re also talking to officials about the “critical infrastructure” projects needed including fire, schools and police services.
The other factor, Hill said, is the fact the addition of 10,000 jobs a year is creating a huge demand for housing.
“If you look at 10,000 jobs created, you’re going to need 7,000 housing units,” he said.
But Hill said the area is only building about 4,500 units this year so there’s “no supply on the market for single family houses.”
“I hope home builders see that because they need to respond to this,” he said because, by 2030, the area’s population will have grown from 550,000 to 700,000.
Nonetheless, he said he’s excited about western Nevada’s prospects moving forward.
Christal Park Keegan’s professional experience includes working as an attorney for the National Judicial College in Reno and for the Chapman Law Firm in Northern Nevada.