Companies scouting Carson for relocation

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Northern Nevada Development Authority is fielding a growing number of inquiries from companies that are thinking about relocating or expanding in northern Nevada.

Now the economic development organization headquartered in Carson City faces the challenge of ensuring that it has the right number of staff to meet the needs of its business clients.

"The level of interest in business relocations and expansion is growing exponentially," says Rob Hooper, the executive director of NNDA. "People have been on hold for too long. Some companies just can't wait any more."

He says four companies are very close to making decisions that might bring them to Carson City and neighboring counties and a couple of dozen more companies are working closely with NNDA to gather information.

California companies, which generate the lion's share of NNDA, are beginning to get serious about relocation because the specter of higher taxes in the Golden State as well as the uncertainties that have followed bankruptcies by city governments.

NNDA is the state-designated Regional Development Authority for Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon counties, and the southern half of Storey County.

Most of the inquiries about Carson City come from manufacturers who are interested in relocating into a city with a strong base of skilled manufacturing workers and an infrastructure of supporting companies.

But as the region's economy diversifies, Hooper says NNDA expects to see added strength in industries related to outdoors recreation in Douglas County and growing interest in food-processing and agriculture-related industries in Churchill County.

Health technology, meanwhile, holds promise as a driver of the region's economy over the long term, the NNDA executive says.

Some pieces of a growing health sector already are in place, he says. Carson-Tahoe Health is a strong asset, and it's begun to attract a cluster of medical professionals to Carson City. A handful of companies that develop both software and hardware for medical technology are beginning to establish roots in the region, and the proposed creation of the Carson City Knowledge and Discovery Center in the heart of the city would further spur growth of the technology sector, Hooper says.

More prosaic industries, meanwhile, also may help create new employment in the region.

The completion of the I-580 freeway between Carson City and Reno, for instance, already is creating some interest among logistics companies that previously were discouraged by the U.S. 395 bottleneck between the two cities.

All the activity, however, stretches NNDA resources.

With a tiny staff - four people, soon to grow to five - NNDA has relied on a network of hundreds of volunteers organized into 14 committees that provide information on everything from available industrial sites to programs to train workers.

The heavy reliance on community resources - Hooper has dubbed it "open source economic development" - has drawn national attention.

Cleveland State University's Economic Development Department, for instance, recognized the NNDA organization as one of the best 24 job-creation initiatives in the United States.

And NNDA got a more important vote of confidence this spring when its application to become the Regional Development Authority was approved by the state government.

The designation, part of a sweeping reorganization of economic development programs by the state government, came after process that required extensive applications even from groups such as NNDA that had worked closely with the state in the past.

"It consumed a lot of time," says Hooper, who notes the process also created some uncertainty among the businesses whose support provides the basis of NNDA's finances.

The upshot: "We had more activity, but we had less income," the NNDA executive said.

But with the state designation in place, NNDA now is creating the infrastructure of paid staff it needs to support the work of its many volunteers.

Maurice Washington, a former state senator, has been named deputy director of NNDA.

In another move, the organization added a position to handle accounting and human resources responsibilities.ꆱ


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