Guinn raps Nevada preparedness for economic development

RENO - Nevada is not prepared for the type of high tech industry it is trying to attract, Gov. Kenny Guinn told attendees Thursday at the Governor's Economic Development Conference.

"It's difficult to encourage you to come to Nevada unless I can say we are on the cutting edge," Guinn said in the conference's keynote address.

"I don't like it that we are last in so many things, so many that I can't list them all," he said.

But he did note that only 37 percent of Nevada's high school graduates go on to college and only 17 percent actually earn a college degree.

"We must develop an educated work force if we're going to attract businesses. But I think you'll see a difference in the education system in the State of Nevada," Guinn said.

He said the change has already started with the implementation of the Nevada Millennium Scholarship program, which offers up to $2,500 a year for students who graduate from a Nevada high school with at least a B average and attend a Nevada college or university. The program is funded with a portion of the state's revenue from the settlement with the tobacco industry.

Guinn also expressed frustration with the restrictions on his power that result from the biennial legislative sessions, but said he expects that change soon, too.

"We can't have an organization where the Executive Branch can only make decisions during a 120-day period every two years," Guinn said.

"I think you'll see a tremendous increase in the flexibility of government to operate."

He indicated he is not going to wait for the 2001 Nevada Legislature to convene for that to happen.

"Next week, without anybody's approval, I'm going to order a color printer for the governor's office," Guinn said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

"They will no longer tell me I have to wait two years.

"I'm no longer going to drive out to Ely for an appearance and get back at three in the morning. I plan to fly in the state's plane.

"It's my responsibility to make sure that the State of Nevada is run efficiently and provides good services to its citizens, but we're not on the cutting edge there either. We're not a leader - we are a follower.

"Five months ago, there were only five state departments that had their own Web pages. Now every department does.

"Now, if you tell someone you stood in line an hour at the Department of Motor Vehicles, you're telling everyone that you can't pick up the telephone, lick an envelope or use the Internet, because we can get you taken care of without ever going into that office.

"We're going to have to do business differently in the State of Nevada if we are going to survive. Too long we've said we'll just go and take the gaming and tourism dollars. But, when you import tourist dollars, you're not creating any economic growth."

Daniel Burris, an expert at predicting technological trends, and Roger Herman, who focuses on the future of business and the workforce, both warned attendees that change will continue to affect businesses at an accelerating pace and business leaders will have to become experts at anticipating and preparing for such change to continue to succeed.

The conference continues this morning at the Reno Hilton, with sessions on keeping good people in the new economy and on global issues and economic insights.


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