The northern Nevada economy is booming but continues to be stymied by a dearth of industrial real estate and affordable housing.
“The Sierra Pacific metropolitan area is growing,” Rob Hooper, executive director, Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA), told attendees at NNDA’s monthly breakfast Wednesday at the Carson Nugget. “Our biggest growth problem is no industrial space.”
Hooper said that’s led NNDA to focus on recruiting medium to large sized companies who need to build their own facilities due to the unique nature of their business.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hooper said NNDA is also targeting small shops that can use up the remaining pockets of industrial space.
In the last 12 months, NNDA has brought seven new companies to the region and assisted in expansions at five existing businesses for a total of 470 jobs and about $26 million in capital investment in equipment, it was reported.
Hooper said a related factor limiting growth is residential real estate.
“The thing that goes hand in hand is the scarcity of affordable workforce housing,” said Hooper. “We’re out of apartments, out of rentals.”
Hooper said NNDA is working with Nevada Rural Housing Authority on strategies to remedy the problem.
“The construction industry ought to be architecting and engineering those houses right now because by the time they finish them it will be the right time to market them,” said Steve Hill, executive director, Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).
Hill was referring specifically to the Highway 50 corridor, which will soon be connected to the fast-growing Tahoe Reno Industrial Center via the USA Parkway extension now under construction.
Hill said Tesla Motors Inc. already employs 500 full-time people at its expanding battery factory as well 1,000 long-term construction jobs.
The plant was expected to employ 6,500 people at full capacity but Hill said the number of workers will likely reach 10,000.
“It will be the largest single manufacturing facility in the world,” he said.
Hill also gave an update on Nevada’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) testing. The state is one of five Federal Aviation Administration test sites for drones in the country.
He said close to 1,000 tests have been conducted here, more than all the other sites combined.
The state is working on three areas using UAVs: fire suppression, cloud seeding and agricultural monitoring.
In cloud seeding, the Desert Research Institute is working with Drone America, the Reno UAV manufacturer, and agricultural monitoring tests are being conducted at Winnemucca Farms Inc.
Through two programs, GOED works with small businesses to help them get federal, state and local government contracts.
Hill said the programs have assisted companies in the region with 310 contracts totaling $73 million.
“If you know a small business interested in doing it, let them know,” he said. “We’ll facilitate those meetings, help with contracting and the bid so companies can learn how to do it and do on their own.”
Hill said the good news is Nevada has recovered all the jobs lost during the recession and income is growing.
“Nevada led the nation in wage growth last year,” he said. “If I had to single out one measurement for a headline it would be that.”