Northern Nevada’s top Carson City-based economic development spokesman touted sweet success Tuesday but also talked of challenges on the horizon.
Rob Hooper, the director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, told local Rotary Club members the old way of doing business in his field won’t cut it anymore.
“The idea that economic development is about any job has got to quit right now,” Hooper said. He called it a key to bring in or grow firms with jobs at or above the median income, which is among the reasons that challenges lie ahead. One example of problems in doing that, he said, is that the Carson City area is running out of industrial space to help court and then house manufacturers from California or elsewhere.
He said lack of industrial space is among the top problems on a list that includes the fact manufacturing automation means fewer jobs in industry, though they pay well.
He also fielded a question after his talk about the margins tax proposal on the general election ballot later this year. He said top leaders in government and economic development don’t want to see it approved because it freezes development.
“We’ve got to rally against it,” he said.
Hooper said when he took over NNDA five years ago, there was a lack of focus on work force education or training, a problem that has been rectified in large measure. He didn’t take direct credit, choosing instead to thank companies and educators who have stepped up to turn that situation around. He said it helps with retention and recruiting of firms.
“That speaks volumes to current companies and future companies,” he said, noting recruitment, retention, expansion and helping start-ups are key to success.
Hooper also credited teamwork at NNDA that changed the way firms are lured, letting commercial and residential real estate people help take the lead, as well as marketers and other area experts.
“They knew how to ask the right questions,” he said. “We stood back and let the people who know what they’re doing do the job.”
He said results in the past three years include $1.3 billion in business impact and more than 4,000 jobs, citing them as direct, secondary and induced jobs. Those figures stem from econometric modeling that is used in software helping measure outcomes, Hooper said.
Among top targets going forward, he said, are health care technology and manufacturing, with the latter including unmanned aerial vehicles also known as drones.
“We’re big on manufacturing,” he said. “We’re big on supporting manufacturing.”