At the end of January, I had the privilege of gathering with 800 fellow regional business leaders for Alliance, an economic update presented by the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, and the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority.

All three organizations packed the agenda with information about what’s happening in the northern Nevada economy and what’s coming. From that, here are my 11 biggest takeaways and “a-ha” moments from Alliance.

  • More Technology Companies Are Moving To Our Region

EDAWN’s team is working much more aggressively with the technology sector to bring startups, high-growth companies, and headquarters to northern Nevada. By 2020, EDAWN expects that attracting these types of businesses will be about 20 percent of the organization’s efforts.

  • More Companies Are Visiting Northern Nevada

In 2011 about four companies visited the region each month to consider relocating. In 2017, that number was up to between 10 and 12 per month. According to EDAWN’s internal count, about 70 to 80 percent of companies that visit decide to move here.

  • More Jobs Are Coming

Based on EDAWN’s count, more than 5,100 jobs could be coming to our area in the next 12 months. Of those, more than 1,300 are just pending an announcement. Most of these jobs are in the manufacturing and distribution industries and come from Georgia, California, and Colorado.

Moving forward, EDAWN plans to focus its attention on bringing jobs with high paying wages (at least $30 an hour) and more corporate headquarters to northern Nevada.

  • More Meetings Are Coming

The RSCVA is also working to attract more people and businesses to our region for conferences, meetings, vacations, and recreation. On the same day as Alliance, the RSCVA announced that it approved a feasibility study to look at expanding the Reno-Sparks Convention Center by 300,000 square feet, which would make it large enough to host 80 percent of all conventions and trade shows in North America.

  • More International Visitors Are Coming

The RSCVA is also expanding its efforts to reach Chinese tourists. In 2016, 122 million Chinese people traveled internationally, and that number is estimated to grow to 200 million people by 2020. Every week, 49,000 people travel non-stop from China to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. To capitalize on this opportunity, the RSCVA entered into a representative agreement with preferred hospitality group to open five sales and marketing offices on mainland China to represent Reno/Tahoe.

Now, you may have noticed that all five of those points started with the word “more.” On the flipside of this growth are a few pain points that were also addressed at Alliance. The top ones to think about include:

  • Affordable Housing

Nancy Fennell, president of Dickson Realty, recently wrote a blog post examining this topic, which I would encourage everyone to read. It’s no secret that affordable housing is a problem in our region. As Nancy wrote:

Through hard work, telling the story of our beautiful environment, positioning our region as a great location and leveraging low state taxes, our economic development groups have done a remarkable job in attracting new companies and industries to our area.

But, they will have a problem continuing to attract companies if buyers do not qualify for a mortgage because prices have gotten too high, and workers and families cannot find a place to live; or our property tax doesn’t fund our schools with enough money to make them competitive.

The Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno produces an excellent Residential Activity Report on new residential construction and sales statistics. There were 372 newly constructed homes and nine condos sold in the third quarter, with only 361 units ready for sale.

That is not nearly enough inventory to help offset the actual demand. According to this same report, there are 13,382 tentative units recorded on final maps approved for building. However, with a shortage of construction workers and the cost of construction, there is no date of when those units will be ready for sale or what their final sales prices will be.

There’s no silver bullet fix for this issue. But a few suggestions came out of the Alliance event, which I will share in a few paragraphs.

  • Property Taxes

Nevada is the only state in the country that does not reset property taxes upon sale. According to EDAWN, this system hurts our local government and school districts by reducing the funding each needs to serve its citizens.

  • Workforce Is More Important Now Than Ever

Our region’s unemployment stands at 3.9 percent, down from 14.2 percent in 2011. With more jobs coming, our community needs to attract, train and retain talented people to create the workforce necessary. One way to do this is by partnering with local educational institutions to provide the education individuals will need to be a part of our new economy. The other is by reaching out to other regional colleges and universities to attract their students here on graduation.

These three challenges are not without solutions and suggestions. Here are three ways business and community leaders can help our region navigate this time of growth and expansion.

  • Engage In Support Of Affordable Housing

Get to know your elected officials and get involved in our local government. In her 2018 State of the City address, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said she is going to present a new initiative that would fast-track affordable housing and infill projects through the planning process. Local business leaders need to show their support for solutions that would ease our affordable housing problems.

  • Help Talent Attraction

Help bring talented people to our region. If you’ve got family or friends looking for a job somewhere else, invite them to Reno. Show them our community and the great opportunities available here.

  • Get an intern

Of the 7,500 to 10,000 companies in our region, only 392 have an internship program. Internship programs help keep students in the region once they graduate and can increase our workforce.

Did you attend Alliance? What were your big takeaways from the event? Email me at to tell me all about it!