Proposal would consolidate economic development agencies | NevadaAppeal.com

Proposal would consolidate economic development agencies

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

Nevada’s economic development system – currently a smorgasbord of agencies working to attract businesses to the Silver State – would consolidate into three regional authorities under a plan drafted by legislative Democrats and the governor’s office.

The proposal would create a new cabinet-level agency and director to oversee the three regional economic authorities, which would be located somewhere in Southern, Northern and rural Nevada. Those efforts would be overseen by a board of directors, including the governor.

Members of the press were given a preview of the 125-page proposal, Assembly Bill 449, on Friday. The Democratic leadership in both chambers and the governor’s office have been working on the bill draft for some time and plan on introducing the legislation within the next two weeks.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera and Heidi Gansert, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff, told reporters that legislative Republicans have been briefed on the proposal. They said many details of the bill are still being worked out.

“We want to give it a little time to marinate,” Oceguera said.

Among those details are the funding for a so-called knowledge fund, which would be modeled after Utah’s USTAR program, which recruits star academic talent to the state’s universities and expands research facilities. In theory, that new talent would develop new technologies and commercialize them, resulting in revenues going back to the state and replenishing the fund.

Meanwhile, the bill would create a catalyst fund, which would take $10 million from the unclaimed property proceeds and use the money for grants to fund regional economic development efforts.

Economic development agencies, such as the Northern Nevada Development Authority in Carson City (one of many throughout Nevada), would apply for funding through the catalyst fund.

And while more details need to be worked out, “In my conversations with those involved in this I think those details are going to be worked out to the benefit of economic development. In some ways I think it’s overdue,” said Rob Hooper, the executive director of the NNDA.

Out of its $500,000 annual budget, the NNDA gets $200,000 in state grants, Hooper said. The rest comes from Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties as well as donations.

“I feel real confident that NNDA’s track record speaks for itself,” Hooper said. “We have more of a broad based approached in economic development.”

If the bill passes, which its proponents hope to happen by next month, an interim board of directors comprised of elected officials would begin the search for the new cabinet-level director who would oversee the Economic Development Office.

In the interim, the Nevada Commission on Economic Development would maintain economic development efforts in the state until the new office is established. Meanwhile, an interim study would establish how regional economic development authorities would apply for and win state grant money as well as which industries they should be targeting.

Gansert said the new system would give the governor’s office more oversight of the state’s economic development efforts.

“There’s a great deal of accountability here, we thought that was the piece that was missing,” Gansert said.