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New jobs spotlight economic diversification

By John Seelmeyer
Published: Last Updated on
Reno Skyline

At a time when the local unemployment rate at last count was just a hair under 20 percent and more than 44,000 people were jobless in Washoe County, the arrival of more than 300 new jobs is good news.

It’s even better news, economic development officials said, because not a single one of the jobs is tied to gaming or tourism.

The most recent batch of new jobs arriving in town was announced by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada on Wednesday:

  • Plus Plus, a software platform that helps big companies such as SalesForce and LinkedIn scale up their internal learning programs, will bring about 100 jobs to the region in the next five years. (The four-year-old company, moving from the Bay Area, also got major funding from the Reno Seed Fund, which invests in promising young companies.)
  • YOGO, a company that’s developed eco-friendly yoga products, expects to hire about 40 people at its new headquarters in Sparks. It, too, is moving from the Bay Area.
  • Affinity Development Group, which creates customer relationship management and affinity programs for big companies such as Ford and Costco, is currently hiring more than 200 people for a newly opened office in south Reno. The company is headquartered in San Diego.

The three new companies are particularly important because they help to further diversify the region’s economy away from its historic reliance on gaming and tourism, said Mike Kazmierski, the president and chief executive of EDAWN.

Diversification of the region’s economy became a major push about 10 years ago, as economic leaders sorted through the rubble of the Great Recession. They decided to focus on creation of jobs in manufacturing, technology, and business services.

The decade of work paid off in March and April.

The Reno-Sparks region lost more than 25,000 jobs — about 10 percent of all the jobs in the local economy — after pandemic-related business lockdowns. Restaurants, hotels and casinos were especially hard-hit, losing about 8,000 jobs.

But manufacturing, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of the jobs in the Reno-Sparks area, stayed steady during the lockdown. So did the information sector, which includes a lot of tech companies. So did the financial services sector.

The story was different elsewhere.

Las Vegas, which has been much less successful diversifying its economy, lost 21 percent of its jobs to the pandemic. Its unemployment rate reached 33.5 percent, and the state estimates that 356,000 residents of Clark County were looking for work in April.

Kazmierski said more diversification is coming in northern Nevada. More than a dozen companies are planning to announce new locations in the Reno-Sparks area in the next 90 days.

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