Column: industry needs

After producing a "Manufacturer's Directory" of existing businesses and a "Suppliers and Support Services Directory" for existing manufacturers, our next step in the program was to determine the needs of each industry within a cluster. The overall needs assessment consisted of mailed surveys, focus groups, one-on-one meetings with company representatives and a specific follow-up on items identified throughout the process.

Working through its marketing research task force (made up of representatives of University of Nevada Reno, Western Nevada Community College, Sierra Pacific Power Company and Nevada Bell) NNDA developed a survey instrument to mail directly to capital region businesses in each of the seven industry clusters. The survey serves three purposes: (1) it represents a direct contact by NNDA and UNR to its customers; (2) it asks for new business referrals (peer group manufacturers and/or suppliers not in Nevada) and (3) the aggregated responses of each industry cluster help NNDA develop policies and programs directed to meeting the specific needs of the industry cluster.

The survey is mailed to one industry cluster at a time and is not anonymous. The survey requests that each company update specific information in NNDA's customer data base. The firms rate by importance and satisfaction several dimensions of six specific factors of the capital region that relate to the profitable operation of the firm. The factors are (1) infrastructure, (2) business/financial service, (3) work force, (4) technology, (5) government services and (6) quality of life.

The first industry cluster surveyed by NNDA/UNR were medical related product manufacturers. The survey was mailed to 17 firms in the capital region, with a response rate of 41 percent. The surveys were tabulated, and gaps between importance and satisfaction ratings for each factor were determined. Each respondent was then asked to participate in a focus group based upon the survey results. The purpose of the groups is to further define the survey results and determine specific needs of the industry cluster.

Action Plan:

The survey and focus group results then serve as a basis for developing an NNDA action plan to address the needs identified by the industry. The three top priorities identified by the medical products manufacturers cluster as (1) workforce training and education, (2) industrial suppliers/vendors/support services and (3) professional services.

Workforce Training and Education:

-- Determine NNDA's role in facilitating an improved entry-level workforce.

-- Take action to inform this market segment of available education and training resources.

-- Share resumes that are received by NNDA and ProNet.

-- Consider co-op advertising campaign to recruit employees from depressed economies like aerospace, timber and mining.

-- Establish an education consortium, to work directly with the medical product manufacturers cluster.

Business Services:

-- Follow-up on surveys and survey manufacturers again for supplier and vendor referrals for Nevada recruitment.

-- Meet with health care, utilities and financial representatives to discuss issues raised by the industry cluster.

In addition to the survey, focus groups and action plan, the task force is conducting one-on-one meetings with firms in each cluster. This face-to-face direct assistance enables NNDA to address the specific needs of each firm.

Next Steps:

NNDA is continuing its efforts under the business retention and expansion program. Surveys will be sent to almost 300 firms in aerospace, auto parts, metal fabrication, electronics, construction materials, plastics/composites, computer/software and machine shops. Follow-up surveys will be sent to non-respondents. As with the medical products industry cluster, NNDA will schedule one-one meetings with business in all of the above-mentioned clusters. This is an ongoing, two-year, work-in-progress project.


Cluster approach works as anticipated by the task force, the industry, cluster-based approach is proving to be an effective way for NNDA to understand and impact upon regional industry dynamics. Furthermore, industry clustering is seen as a valuable tool for short-term industry attraction efforts, medium-term development strategies designed to retain and expand existing business, and long-term economic development goals to maintain growth in our region.

For NNDA, an industry cluster-based strategy is especially useful because it helps NNDA define policy, as well as work directly with industry to retain and expand existing capital region firms.

Kris Holt is the executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority.


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