STATE BUSINESS: Nevada companies make lists; Enterprises earn national ranking

There may not be a proliferation of technology companies sprouting up in Nevada but a few that did were recognized this month for their success.

Inc. magazine's annual list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies recognized three Northern Nevada companies, up from one in 1999.

Chuck Alvey, head of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada in Washoe County, said more and more companies are moving to the Reno area.

In 1999, the authority helped 21 companies move or expand and already this year it has assisted 31 companies, Alvey said.

Those companies' economic impact is estimated at $92 million last year and more than $200 million this year, he said.

And that's just the companies the authority has worked with.

"There's a lot of companies that come here that we don't deal with they just come," Alvey said.

In its December issue, Inc. also ranked Reno as the fourth-best small metropolitan area for starting or expanding a business.

"No personal or corporate income taxes, an outdoors lifestyle, and easy access to transportation (air, rail and road) have made Reno a regional-distribution and back-office-processing hub," the magazine wrote.

Nevada native Steve Cerocke, president of information technology consultancy IQ Systems, founded his Sparks-based company in 1993.

Cerocke had applied for the Inc. listing the last three years before finally making it this year. After growing 800 percent in five years, IQ Systems ranked No. 340 on this year's list.

A company must be in operation for five years to be eligible for the Inc. list.

IQ Systems also has a branch in the technology rich San Francisco Bay area.

"One of the advantages here (in the Reno area) is the proximity to Silicon Valley," Cerocke said. "We can very easily do business 'over the hill' as we call it. It was a natural for us to branch out in Silicon Valley and at the same time use the cost of doing business advantage in Nevada."

Many California technology companies Cerocke deals with are envious of him for operating in business-friendly Nevada.

"People are impressed to think we were forward-thinking enough to move to Nevada. We don't really give them our little secret that we started here and expanded to Northern California," he said.

Bob Willmess started his first company in San Jose in the late 1980s. But he wanted to escape the trappings of a big city and moved to Oakdale, Calif.

He sold that first company, Western Computer Supplies, then started Horizon Data Supplies.

Willmess aspired to reach the Inc. list with Horizon, which grew from $110,000 in annual sales to $40 million. But he sold it to a publicly traded company just before he was eligible to apply.

He finally made it this year with Best Computer Supplies, which sells products to schools and school districts. Best Computer Supplies grew 1,900 percent over the last five years to reach $8.8 million in annual sales, making it No. 114 on the list.

High taxes in California and a small work force to draw from in Oakdale led Willmess to move his company to Reno in 1993.

Reno is "a great distribution point to cover the state of California so logistically we lost no business," said Willmess, who noted the bulk of Horizon's business was in California.

Proximity to his family in northern California, low labor rates and an outdoor lifestyle also attracted Willmess to Reno.

Although Reno is a larger city than Oakdale, he still has difficulty recruiting employees.

"We're getting to a point where we're having a hard time recruiting," Willmess said. "Our biggest hinderance is the unemployment rate is just too damn low."

Reno's unemployment rate hovers around 3 percent.

Cerocke agreed that recruiting was the biggest drawback to doing business in Nevada.

"Getting people to relocate from the Silicon Valley is very difficult," Cerocke said. "One of the things we don't have up here is a large, highly skilled workforce. Unless they're sick and tired of the Silicon Valley, it's difficult to get them up to (Reno)."

Having few technology companies in the area is also a drawback for recruiting, Cerocke said.

"Because if it doesn't work out (for an employee who moves for a job) they essentially have to go back to where they came from."

RMX, which describes itself as providing e-commerce fulfillment services such as delivery, ranked 233rd on the list with five-year annual sales growth of 1,000 percent to $28.5 million.


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