Nevada must become technologically savvy first before it can expect Silicon Valley companies to do business in the state, Gov. Kenny Guinn said at a well-attended Rotary luncheon Tuesday.
"We need to be the leader, not the follower, before we can ask Silicon Valley to come here," he said. "That's why the Millennium scholarship program is so important - it will give us an educated work force, the kind we need to attract those companies to begin with."
Nevada ranks at the bottom in terms of high school graduates who go on to college, but it's not because students don't have the grades, he said.
"We're at the bottom because students do not have the money," Guinn said. "With the scholarships, we're keeping our kids in-state now."
Enrollment in the freshman class at the University of Nevada, Reno has gone up about 23 percent, according to Guinn. He said the scholarships will be particularly effective because they allow prospective students an eight-year window of opportunity to get a degree, giving young people second chances at college.
"In terms of long-range planning for the future, it's one of the best things that ever happened to Nevada," said Guinn. He made the point that well-educated people smoke less, are less of a drain on state health resources, and contribute more toward Social Security. The Millennium scholarships are funded in part by cigarette tax revenue.
Running the state efficiently means planning eight or nine years down the road, said Guinn, who characterized himself as a long-range planner by nature. Because Nevada has been the fastest-growing state in the nation, Guinn stressed the need for ingenuity over outmoded ways of doing things.
An example he cited was the Department of Motor Vehicles' conversion from a paper-based bureaucracy to a more convenient digital format. Anticipating a teacher shortage, he also discussed allowing experienced private school teachers to qualify for state certification.
Efficiency also means monitoring how well taxpayers' money is spent.
"We can't do it all at once - but, for the first time we have an internal audit staff to check our performance, a new set of eyes that are looking at it every day," he said. By closing the prison at Jean in the southern part of the state and moving prisoners a just 42 miles north, Guinn said he saved the state 36 million dollars.
Regarding the Carson City bypass, Guinn said the state is committed to it, regardless of the delays.
"Once these NDOT projects are cast, they're in the die," he said, noting that acquiring rights-of-way is a long process. "It's not lack of money; it's lack of approvals," he said."We'll eventually get there." He cited the Spaghetti Bowl intersection in Reno, which took 27 years from inception to reality.
"We're going to change the way we do business in Nevada, because you can't stifle peoples' creativity," Guinn said.