Economic insights from NNDA: Economic development — the Nevada model | FirstNationsFocus.com

Economic insights from NNDA: Economic development — the Nevada model

By Lynn O’Mara

Special to First Nation's Focus

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Economic development is broadly defined as the development of economic wealth of countries, regions or communities for the wellbeing of their inhabitants.

Over the past 50 years, it has evolved to become part of the political arena and policy driven which has led to distorted perspectives and much misunderstanding. Lawmakers and elected officials typically define it through initiatives that seek to improve the economic wellbeing and quality of life by creating and/or retaining jobs and supporting or growing incomes and the tax base, for current and future generations.

It is understood that Tribal communities plan for a seven-generation trajectory. Economic development meets current economic needs while looking ahead to what those needs will be 30 years down the road, and also knowing results may take many years to be realized.

In general, economic development encompasses three components. First, there are policies that governments adopt to meet broad economic objectives such as price stability, high employment, expanded tax base and sustainable growth. These efforts often include monetary and fiscal policies, regulation of financial institutions, trade, and tax policies.

The second component is the policies and programs to provide infrastructure and services, such as highways, parks, obtainable housing, crime prevention and educational programs and projects.

Finally, there are the policies and programs explicitly directed at job creation and retention through specific initiatives. These often are efforts focused on business finance and access to capital, tax incentives, marketing, neighborhood development, small business start-ups and development, business retention and expansion, technology innovation and transfer, workforce development and training, and real estate development.

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Nevada's unique system of economic development was established by Gov. Richard Bryan in the 1980s, and considered quite innovative and forward thinking, since it utilized public-private partnerships long before they became popular.

By allowing nonprofit organizations, such as NNDA, to be the connector, this leveled the playing field and gave all stakeholders at the table a voice in the process. Governors Bob Miller, Kenny Guinn and Jim Gibbons, who added features and benefits that led to many successful achievements, further refined this system.

The most significant step forward happened during the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature with the passage of Assembly Bill 449 (AB449). Gov. Brian Sandoval, with the overwhelming support of the Legislature, officially established the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), and the State's economic development operations were moved directly into the Governor's office. This has given visibility, focus and support to economic development efforts rarely found in other states.

As a result of AB449, the breadth, depth and impact of economic development within Nevada have expanded significantly. The legislation also authorized Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) to be designated by the GOED Executive Director.

GOED then contracts with RDAs to represent GOED in all matters pertaining to economic development within their designated regions. In a joint effort among GOED, the RDAs, the counties, local governments and Tribal communities — and with tremendous support by the local business communities and the Nevada Legislature — Nevada's economy has been diversified, and our economic health has been tremendously improved. The Silver State has regained its place as one of the top job creating states in the U.S.

NNDA can only speak for itself, and not the other RDAs. As the state-designated RDA for the Sierra Region (Carson City, Douglas County, Lyon County and Storey County), the NNDA mission is to influence, facilitate and support the region's ongoing growth and prosperity of its economic ecosystem.

To accomplish this, NNDA focuses its economic development efforts on six core areas: growing the economic ecosystem, workforce development, infrastructure needs, access to capital, affordable commercial and industrial space, and business growth and job creation.

The organization fosters regional coordination and collaboration to ensure the region's economic ecosystem can thrive and grow. Since 2010, NNDA has reduced the industrial rate vacancy from 26% to 3%, has assisted 100 companies with expansion or relocation, and has over $1.4 billion of economic impact for the Sierra Region it serves.

Overall, economic development facilitates the general improvement in living standards through the creation of jobs, the support of innovation and new ideas, the creation of higher wealth (including higher household incomes), and the creation of an overall better quality of life.

Since it is equally about building a solid foundation for the future, its efforts are continuous and always needed, no matter the current economic cycle. This allows economic upticks to be leveraged and maximized, so downturns can be minimized and mitigated, resulting in a vibrant and resilient economic ecosystem.

Lynn O'Mara is Director of Economic Development for the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA). The organization can provide economic development assistance to Nevada tribal communities. For information, visit http://www.nnda.org or contact the NNDA tribal liaison, Valerie Meléndez, RSIC tribal citizen, at vmelendez@nnda.org and 775-624-3962.