EDAWN CEO Mike Kazmierski.
In September 2020, when the economy was still hobbled by the pandemic, Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, was prepared for the organization to experience a down year.
Twelve months later, Kazmierski said he is “pleasantly surprised” at EDAWN’s success in attracting fast-growing companies with high-paying jobs to Northern Nevada despite pandemic-related challenges.
At the June 30 end of the 2021 fiscal year, EDAWN reported the companies it brought to greater Reno-Sparks for the year account for 2,567 primary jobs, surpassing its goal of 2,500.
The average annual wage of the wave of new jobs being created in the region is nearly $64,000, slightly below a goal of $65,000.
Kazmierski said the fact EDAWN stayed open throughout the pandemic played a major role in its ability to have a strong fiscal year.
“That’s been really important because a lot of the companies that are looking to leave California or expand want to physically see the community,” Kazmierski said in an interview last week. “And we’ve been able to do that with them, so that was a big part of it.”
Kazmierski was quick to note a “great community team” — from government agencies to education partners to business leaders — has been especially instrumental in EDAWN’s success.
“When we need help or we need support, we have a team, across the board, that really steps up and gets things done for us,” he said. “And we’re fortunate to have a great staff here that really works hard, believes in the community and is passionate about what they do. A lot of that shows; when a company comes here, they want to talk to someone who’s excited to see them and wants to help.”
Kazmierski said the majority of the companies EDAWN landed last fiscal year — and those in the pipeline moving forward — are in advanced manufacturing and technology. Not only do those sectors bring higher-paying jobs to greater Reno-Sparks, they add jobs to the region that are sustainable, he said.
“We’re in the fourth industrial revolution,” Kazmierski said. “And many of the jobs that exist now will be gone in 10 years. So, we want to bring here the job that’s not only pay well, but are going to be here in 10 years. We don’t want to bring a company in here that’s in the process of downsizing. We want to bring a company in here that’s in the process of growing the kinds of jobs that we’re going to need in the future.”
Those jobs are especially important as housing prices continue to set records across Northern Nevada. The latest report from the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors shows the median price Reno-Sparks in July was $530,000, a 22% jump from July 2020.
“You can’t afford to live here on minimum wage,” Kazmierski said. “So, if we don’t bring in great jobs that pay well and give people that may be getting paid less, an opportunity to get some training and then move into a higher paying job, they’re just going to have a hard time living here.”
This, Kazmierski said, is why more elected officials need to be supportive of projects that grow the single-family and multifamily housing supply in the community.
“Housing is a huge issue nationally, but we’re growing faster than most,” he said. “We have been reluctant to build more houses, and we have elected officials that make it harder to build houses. When you put all that in the mix, the result is we have a continued lack of supply with growing demand.
“And all that means is prices go up.”
Meanwhile, Kazmierski said a byproduct of the pandemic is many U.S. manufacturing companies with operations overseas are looking to re-shore back to America after the pandemic caused crimps in supply chains. Northern Nevada, he feels, is primed for an influx of manufacturers.
Looking ahead, Kazmierski said EDAWN has 10 companies that have recently committed to relocating to the region, led by six manufacturing firms, one of which is also moving its headquarters here.
In all, the 10 firms account for nearly 1,500 new jobs. Those companies will be announced within the next three months, Kazmierski said.
EDAWN is also working with seven more manufacturing companies and one distribution firm that are finalists for relocation. If they all committed, they would inject nearly 6,000 new jobs to the region.
“Advanced manufacturing has been a great fit for our community,” he said. “They don’t require super technical skills, so it’s a great industry where somebody in say tourism or gaming who may want to up-skill or someone coming out of a community college that may not want to go get a four-year degree can get a chance to work in an advanced manufacturing facility and make $70,000 to $80,000 a year, with full benefits.”
Kazmierski said EDAWN has also put a lot of emphasis on “entrepreneurial growth” in the region. In 2020, the organization attracted 30 new startups, accounting for 139 new jobs, and “90% of the companies are in technology,” he said, citing biotech, nanotech, fintech and blockchain as industry-specific examples.
In fact, Kazmierski said a confidential nanotech company from California is relocating to Storey County and will add 350 jobs over the next five years; the company would be formally announced in “the next month or two.”
For the 2022 fiscal year, EDAWN is aiming for another 2,500 jobs with an average annual wage of $65,000, Kazmierski said.
“We think 2,500 is a great number for us at this size,” he said. “It allows us to bring in the right kinds of companies and keep our growth going. At the same time, we have to deal with workforce development issues, and housing issues and other things so that we can keep up.”