PROGRESS: Economic development experts adjust to the ‘new normal’ |

PROGRESS: Economic development experts adjust to the ‘new normal’

Brian Duggan

Economic development has taken on a new meaning in Carson City and the rest of Northern Nevada as local leaders look for ways to spur growth in the region.

Rob Hooper, the executive director of the Northern Nevada Business Development Authority, started in his position in March with a new philosophy to local economic development: Enlisting the community to help attract new businesses to the Sierra region.

“People aren’t sitting back in judgment when they’re a part of the process,” Hooper said.

Hooper said NNDA has put together local bankers, accountants and real estate agents to work on bringing businesses into the Sierra region.

“Unemployment figures over the last two months have dropped,” Hooper said. “Just across the board I see the groundswell happening.”

Early next year a team of 15 community members will attend a medical device manufacturing trade show on behalf of NNDA as part of a marketing campaign for the city.

Hooper said NNDA has talked to about 80 companies that have expressed at least interest in relocating their operation to the region. Hooper adds another challenge is to help businesses already here expand and add more jobs.

Kris Holt, the director of Nevada Business Connections, a private business recruitment firm, said 2009 has resulted in more interest in the area from California companies looking to do business in a lower cost environment.

Holt said he is making trips to California on a regular basis. He also hosted NBC’s first monthly breakfast meeting this fall for its members. His organization also announced this year a new manufacturers export program to help attract business from Mexico and other Central and South American countries.

“Everybody has to be lean and mean now,” Holt said. “On the positive side the city has gotten fairly aggressive with some blue light specials on their (water and sewer) hook-up fees. I think that’s interesting the city really wants to get competitive.”

Hooper said the area rode the construction boom for too long and became too dependent on the growth economy that fizzled in the recession.

“We had no driver in our economy, and the drivers from the past don’t work in the new normal,” Hooper said.

Now, the challenge is to find new sources of economic growth for the region, such as a proposed downtown redevelopment project and attracting new industries to the region..

“2009 was the realization that there is a new normal,” he said. “I think that was the realization we all had to come to. And I believe we’re going to come out of the gates in 2010 strong and go in the right direction.”