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Stopping the outflow of dollars from western Nevada

By ThisIsReno


The Stronger Economies Together (SET) Team met in Hawthorne July 11, where members learned about regional “star industries,” as well as economic “leakages” of products and services that are getting developed elsewhere that could be developed inside the region.

“This is the key to turning the regional economy around,” said Dr. Tom Harris, who is director of the UNR Center for Economic Development. “If we can identify the gaps, and then plug the leakages by producing these products and services inside the region, we can staunch the flow of dollars that is currently moving outside of the area,” Harris said.

A variety of pointers about successful economic regions were shared. The Silicon Valley Index Measures for Success includes population growth, educational attainment, increasing employment and a diverse set of occupational skills as indications of a successful economic region. The WNDD region shares one of those attributes: the region grew by 15 percent from 2000-2010; currently the population of this eight-county area is 211,191 people, but employment has been decreasing and the occupational skill set is limited. The percentage of people with college degrees is 18 percent in the region compared to 28 percent statewide.

Harris talked about how economic development through enhancing the livability of an area, keeping more money in a community, buying more products locally, and enhancing the internal culture and environment is different than economic development through growth alone.

Harris described two strategies for communities to use to support targeted industries: Import Substitution and Export Enhancement.

Import substitution seeks to reduce money outflows from a region by creating economic development opportunities to fill the demands for goods and services using businesses and services within the region. For instance, if a manufacturer is operating in Carson Valley but importing parts from the Bay Area, the job of regional economic development is to identify what the business needs are, what core processes are required to fill that need, then match the business with a local manufacturer or service to fill that need. Perhaps a local manufacturer could adapt their machinery or work line; in one circumstance a manufacturer found the part-maker they needed –only two miles from their work site. Regional foods, that is, buying foods that are grown locally, is another form of import substitution. Instead of buying lettuce from Mexico or Chile, buy locally grown lettuce. Shelley Hartmann, of the Mineral County Economic Development Authority has been working on a Regional Foods Network to enhance availability of Hawthorne’s locally grown foods and is exploring opportunities to work with the Hawthorne Munitions Depot on that project.

Export enhancement seeks to identify those economic sectors, as described by the Southern Region Development Center, which the WNDD region has been relatively successful in nurturing and attracting to the area.  These sectors are defined as STAR clusters. STAR clusters of WNDD are those clusters that are specialized in the region as compared to the nation and have realized increasing employment growth from 2006 to 2011. The STAR clusters are: The Business and Finance Cluster; the Biomedical Cluster; the Transportation and Logistic Cluster; and the Defense Cluster.

As an example of a cluster, Karen Craig, a consultant with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development described how the advanced materials cluster has grown.

“This region has the machine shops to develop composite materials prototypes in an extremely sophisticated way,” she said. The dry desert air helps that process to succeed, and currently the western region of Nevada is developing everything—“from kayaks to airplanes.” She gave the example of a big Detroit automobile firm that wanted to prototype a new part, but could not get the time, space or machinery to do so in Detroit. “They came here and prototyped the part in 48 hours.  That is what this region can do exceedingly well,” Craig said. She challenged the SET Team to read reports, find out what local manufacturers need, test ideas with local experts, then choose action to take to support economic development.

The SET Team focused on collaboration and networking as the third strategy to support economic development at the regional level. Results of a computerized survey depicted the strengths and weaknesses of the current communications network within the SET Team. Medical professionals and workforce development involvement appears to be greatly reduced, but governmental and economic development capacity was strong. Juliet Fox, who presented the local network information said the goal of the collaboration is to create innovation and resilience. She said the results show that there is plenty of power at the center of the network, but not enough bodies to do the collaborative work. “This region needs to develop work force experts and human capital experts,” Fox said.

The next Stronger Economies Together Team meeting will be held August 8 in Winnemucca. The focus will be on exploring regional assets and barriers. For more information, visit the Nevada SET website at http://www.unce.unr.edu/programs/sites/set/ or call Carl Dahlen at (775) 230-0075.

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