The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, Taylor Adams, officially took hold of the reins to the organization in mid-August.
Adams sat down with Northern Nevada Business Weekly to discuss his plans for his first 120 days, assimilating into the culture and lifestyle of Northern Nevada, economic development, growing up in Northern Mississippi, and a slew of other topics.
NNBW: What inspired you to take on the top role at EDAWN?
Adams: Two things. The first is family. We have four children – our oldest is 16; the youngest is 10. They have had a definitively East Coast and Southeast experience, which is where I am from. But my wife’s extended family is spread throughout California and Arizona. We were looking at the western half of the country because we want our children to know that part of their family and have closer ties than we were able to offer on the East Coast.
Second, in our industry — large agency economic development — it’s a pretty small community; there just aren’t that many big offices across the country. Most people in this industry would say that the EDAWN job is one of the top two or three, if not the top job in the country. I would say it's the best job in the country. Mike Kazmierski’s enduring legacy is viewing this work through the lens of community building. If you are going to do this work and have a long tenure, you need to be more forward looking. That allows you to look over the horizon and work toward specific objectives. That is work I’d like to believe we did in Virginia Beach, and I think it was attractive to the search committee when they were looking for a replacement.
NNBW: Why do you consider leading EDAWN to be one of the top economic development jobs in the country?
Adams: In order to be successful in economic development and generate the results the community is looking for, you have to have the right inputs. In Northern Nevada, you have available land and infrastructure to support development of that real estate, an incredible workforce, and layer that in with unmatched natural beauty and a quality of life that flows from the outdoor environment. There aren’t that many places in the country that have those advantages right out of the gate. You have all the right inputs to do the work, and secondly, the team and experts at EDAWN in business attraction, expansion, retention and workforce development have generated consistent results and give you the critical mass that’s required to be successful.
NNBW: What do your first 120 days look like?
Adams: A lot of learning. Learning the region and the operational and meeting cadence of our public stakeholders. A lot of listening and front-end relationship building and getting to know the people we are serving.
NNBW: Reno has grown immensely over the past decade, but it’s still a place where you must carefully build your name and protect your reputation. Countless residents and business leaders that you will meet have lived here their whole lives and have known each other for decades. How do you fit in with both the “old guard,” as well as the thousands of new residents that now call Northern Nevada home?
Adams: I spent over 30 years of my life in a state with fewer than 3 million people (Mississippi). Although I spent the last decade in a big city, I spent the preceding years in a place that’s not unlike Northern Nevada. One thing I’ve learned is that the key to fitting in is to be authentically who you are and be true to that. Be the best version of your most authentic self, and I hope I bring that to every meeting and to this team. I recognize that I am not from here, but I hope one day people will see me and say that I belong here, and more importantly, that my family is part of the fabric of this community.
NNBW: In what ways do you plan on collaborating with local government organizations, businesses, and educational institutions to create a thriving business ecosystem?
Adams: We never stop working on that. In each of those facets, the faces will change from time to time and there’s a new relationship to build. Also, the world will change, and the work changes with it. One of the places where EDAWN has been most effective in Northern Nevada has been serving as a regional facilitator of really important conversations that the community wants to have. That is where EDAWN will continue to benefit Northern Nevada.
NNBW: What is the biggest opportunity for the region as a whole moving forward in terms of economic development?
Adams: The pipeline of companies that want to be here is already so strong. We have the opportunity to be somewhat strategic in choosing what industries we want to be here. EDAWN and the community have created a framework that focuses on jobs that actually grow wealth in this region. You see that in the expansions of the tech industry and growth of our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Distribution and logistics will continue to be a cornerstone of what we attract. The opportunity is what we as a community decide is right for us. The opportunities are vast.
NNBW: Are there emerging industries and sectors you plan to explore to further diversify Northern Nevada’s economic landscape?
Adams: Our existing trends make us an ideal candidate for companies expanding into the United States in the manufacturing space. We have a real opportunity, given the strength of life sciences and health-focused care that we have, … in that space as well.
NNBW: A lot of companies have located and expanded into Northern Nevada. How do you plan on ensuring that Northern Nevada has a skilled and adaptable workforce to meet the needs of current employers and evolving industries?
Adams: We have world-class workforce training solutions already in the community. We have a community college that is amongst the best I’ve seen, and we have a flagship university right in our backyard. The pieces are here. The challenge with workforce is supply, and that’s not unique to Northern Nevada — it’s the entire country. Looking around the country, there’s a real focus to engage young people earlier. Economic developers are taking a more active role in making sure that primary and secondary educational institutions have the resources they need to be successful, and they are driving additional supply into the training programs that are already built to capture young people’s attention on opportunities that exist within the market.
NNBW: Northern Nevada is about as different as it gets from Virginia Beach. What has been the hardest adjustment to make?
Adams: It’s truly been a great transition. Virginia Beach was beautiful. We lived on Chesapeake Bay right near the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean. We saw dolphins every time we walked on the beach. Northern Nevada is also beautiful. Northwest Mississippi near the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains was also beautiful. Natural beauty is great, but it’s the people that make the place, and the way that this community has welcomed our family is not something we were prepared for. It has made the transition much easier than we could have possibly expected.
NNBW: There’s a lot of cool things to do here. What excites you most about recreating in Northern Nevada?
Adams: My family loves being outdoors. It’s a throwback to growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. If we did something, it was outside. We live in Somersett, and three of my children play golf, so I am enjoying playing the Canyon Nine course. As soon as I get home from work, my youngest son and I will hit golf balls and play Canyon Nine as the sun sets and then have dinner with the family. We also have been to Lake Tahoe a few times — our entire family was unprepared for the natural beauty of the lake. The water is a little colder than what they are used to, but they love it. I’m also looking forward to my kids learning how to ski. My wife and I have always enjoyed walking on the beach together — here I guess you’d call it a hike. We enjoy that time together and just love being outdoors. A big draw of this community is that it offers amazing opportunities to just be outside. You don't find that everywhere, and it’s exciting.