Northern Nevada business growth: Economic planning needs to think big
September 19, 2016
RENO, Nev. — Understanding Nevada's economic connections can open regional business doors.
Robert Lang, executive director of The Lincy Institute, and director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Las Vegas, will speak on "Megapolitan America" during the 2nd Annual Nevada Economic Development Conference — Building A Stronger Nevada, during a keynote session Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8:30 a.m.
"Nevada's population is less than 3 million, but it's connected to the two biggest megapolitan clusters in the country," Lang said during a recent phone interview the NNBW.
Whereas metropolitan areas are defined by interconnected commute traffic, megapolitans share a much wider network of economic ties.
"They are separate from each other but do a lot of business together," he said
Economically, northern Nevada is more connected to northern California, and southern Nevada more connected to southern California and Phoenix than they are to each other, he said.
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Lang is a nationally recognized authority on urban growth, economic development and population dynamics, including the interplay between politics and growth in the American West. He is the co-author of Megapolitan America, which details the rise of megapolitan areas and how they will change how America plans.
Governments and economic organizations that recognize those connections, can use them to benefit the community.
Reno is only 116th in size among United States metropolitan areas, but it's economically connected to the Bay Area, the second largest megapolitan cluster in the U.S, and an expensive place to do business.
"San Francisco can't afford to have a lot of manufacturers," Lang said.
The Reno metropolitan area is relatively close to the Bay Area with easy access and cheaper to set up shop.
And it's easier to entice workers to move from northern California to Reno than to more distant, less connected areas.
"We don't have the strongest higher education system (in Nevada). We have to improve that, but in the meantime, it's not hard to entice labor to migrate here," Lang said. "It's not a very big leap to move from Sacramento to Reno."
Talking about hiring from outside the area is a touchy subject, but Lang explained that governmental bodies need to look at the advantages.
"The first priority of any government is to have its own citizens employed," he said. "But if you don't get these other companies to come here, you don't get the (new) jobs.
"It's not worth it for governments to get hung up on it. We are part of this bigger, extended California at both ends of the state."
As examples of the benefits of megapolitan-thinking, he noted negotiations with Faraday Future to build its $1 billion electric car factory in southern Nevada and for Tesla to build its Gigafactory in the north.
"It was very tough to make the case that we had the workforce," he said. But pointing out the close proximity to megapolitan areas, helped turn their interest.
"That's actually our workforce," he said. "We can sell firms that we're really a suburb" of the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
Drawing its workforce from other areas is nothing new for Nevada.
"We're in a state with a high percentage of people who were born elsewhere," Lang said. "They bring skills and technology."
And Nevada can benefit California companies.
"We're partners with California. We don't want to take everyone out," he said. We want them to know that "this is someplace you can set up manufacturing. Nevada is California's workbench."
It's a distinction that economic planners need to recognize.