We need economic diversification, not just development | NevadaAppeal.com

We need economic diversification, not just development

Bob Thomas

“Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”- Red Motley

I note that our governor recently proclaimed 50,000 new jobs for Nevada. As usual, the monkey will be on the private sector’s back. I’m wondering if these will be diversified jobs or the same old same old – gaming and tourism.

Gaming has traditionally owned Nevada politically, and when I was a legislator, screaming for economic diversification in the 1980s, gaming didn’t lift a finger to help. Gaming didn’t want political competition. And when it looked like gaming might get socked with a tax increase, it directed Gov. Kenny Guinn to introduce a business income tax on all other businesses. Guinn did, but thanks to Assemblyman Ron Knecht, it got killed.

Frankly, it’s difficult for me to see how Gov. Brian Sandoval, who appears to be gaming’s newest fair-haired boy, can put his heart and soul into economic diversification unless gaming is finally on board. It appears to us citizens that Sandoval’s career has been carefully orchestrated by somebody with power and influence. Guess who? He was chairman of the gaming commission, attorney general, a federal judge and now governor. What a whirlwind!

Politicians don’t ascend that fast in Nevada without big-time influential support that will exact a quid pro quo. Of course, gaming doesn’t care whether friendly politicians are conservatives or liberals as long as they toe the line, so it’s my guess that Sandoval is being groomed to replace Harry Reid. I love that idea. …

Getting back to economic development – and assuming that gaming has finally realized that it is no longer the sledge hammer it used to be, thanks to Indian gaming spreading all over the West – let’s take a closer look at what kind of businesses our governor and his advisers have in mind for Nevada. Manufacturing is best, especially established companies relocating in Nevada.

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OK! Having been in the private sector high-tech engineering and manufacturing business world for most of my life, and then in the public-sector world for 17 years, and having observed 24 years of aborted government attempts at economic diversification, I hold fast to my conviction that neither the Brookings Institution nor Nevada’s elected officials know diddly-squat about recruiting businesses to Nevada.

Brookings is nothing more than a think tank that employs Ph.D.s and MBAs to play computer games, ingesting and digesting tons of demographic, social and psychological data to arrive at their conclusions – which lack the key ingredient to recruit businesses. Sandoval’s administration just spent $400K with Brookings for its report on guiding Nevada’s economic development future.

Now, I applaud our governor’s taking the bit in his teeth and leading this crusade. In my 40 years here, he is the first governor to give economic development an active priority, so I would like to help him while he’s still here. If we lose him to Washington, D.C., before he can complete his economic development/diversification mission, then you can bet that his successor will lose interest because it wasn’t his or her idea.

Private-sector methods are called for in any effort to recruit companies to Nevada. In the private sector we don’t wait for the phone to ring or rely on promotion. We go git ’em! Every manufacturer of goods, be it consumer, high-tech instruments, heavy equipment or whatever, relies on direct sales at the highest levels. After careful planning and researching our targets, we go out into the field and sell to our prospects nose-to-nose, eyeball-to-eyeball. All of the marketing-mailers and advertising in the world will never replace one-on-one selling.

The same thing will hold true when recruiting companies to Nevada. Look! There are excellent contract sales companies that will supply seasoned professionals to call on company CEOs. These pros know how to get appointments with prime movers. Two of these salespersons working California for one year, zeroing in on top companies, making calls five days per week, will bring in dozens of new companies with thousands of new jobs, and for a lot less than the $400K spent with Brookings.

Gov. Sandoval, why not call a round-table meeting of a dozen of Nevada’s manufacturing CEOs and learn how to recruit companies?

• Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist who later served on the Carson City School Board, the state welfare board, the airport authority and as a state assemblyman. Visit his website at http://www.worldclassentrepreneur.com.