Message to California: Don’t uproot, just expand to Nevada | SierraSun.com

Message to California: Don’t uproot, just expand to Nevada

Anne Knowles
aknowles@nnbw.biz

Northern Nevada Development Authority is taking a new tack to attract California businesses to its region: Make northern Nevada your second home.

Instead of trying to persuade companies to uproot, the economic development authority is selling businesses on the advantages of leaving their cost centers in place and moving their profit centers next door to tax-friendly Nevada.

"Companies in California are handcuffed because they can't sell their buildings there," said Rob Hooper, NNDA executive director in Carson City. "We show them a way to improve their bottom line. It's a much better approach."

To that end, NNDA is launching by year's end a new Web site — what the group calls a microsite — using the domain thestateofexpansion.com to highlight the advantages of growing a business here. The site will join an existing marketing microsite called improvethestateofyourbusiness.com.

Improve the State of Your Business is a campaign NNDA launched as part of a two-year, $91,000 contract with Douglas County to help recruit California companies to Carson Valley. The contract, which was recently extended another year to August 2014, focuses on businesses in what NNDA calls the Sierra Pacific Megapolitan Region — stretching from Sacramento through California's Central Valley to San Jose and Monterey and including northwestern Nevada.

The contract with Douglas County came about in 2011 when the county launched its economic vitality initiative. With some additional funding available, its board of commissioners decided to contract with the development authority in order to zero in on engineering jobs and the science and energy industries.

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Since the start of the contract, NNDA has helped attract 10 companies, three expansions and 250 jobs. Announcements on five more new businesses are pending, says Lisa Granahan, the county's economic vitality manager.

The work with Douglas County also led to NNDA re-focusing its marketing pitch on expansion rather than relocation.

"This campaign has evolved from it and been fine-tuned along the way," said Granahan.

So a new digital marketing campaign was put into action in May. NNDA's first target is 240 companies located in Stockton, a city which in April became the nation's largest city to be declared bankrupt.

"We get a lot of inquiries from Stockton," said Hooper. "There's a lot of ag, aerospace and defense there."

Hooper said it will be a while before NNDA and Douglas know if the campaign is paying off, but the concept has already proven itself. ECMO High Voltage Corp., a Sutter Creek, Calif., maker of power supplies, opened a 5,000-square-foot manufacturing site in Minden in 2010, for example. This year, Biofilm Inc., a Vista, Calif. manufacturer of medical devices and drugs, formed Biofilm Management Inc. in Minden, and purchased a 15,000 square foot laboratory facility and added eight jobs.

Biofilm, which remains headquartered in Vista, is now thinking of adding manufacturing here, but is waiting to see if the margin tax referendum passes next year.

"We're kind of on the bubble until they decide that," said Dan Wray, chairman of Biofilm Inc. and CEO of Biofilm Management. "We can't hold on that long. We may set up the manufacturing somewhere else until this is resolved. There's no reason to let them steal your money."

Next, NNDA is making a push into San Bernardino County, the southern California area with a county seat, San Bernardino, which filed for bankruptcy a year ago. The county, like Stockton, is also home to aerospace and defense companies.

NNDA has whittled down an initial list of 4,000 companies to 1,200 and will be sending out emails, running digital and radio ads and making phone calls. The ads and materials are being refined based on what worked best in the Stockton campaign, which highlighted Douglas County's quality of life, safe communities, taxes and regulations.

The upcoming effort, which is being paid for in part with a supplemental grant from the Governor's Office of Economic Development, will market NNDA's region and not just Douglas County, which is fine with the county.

"If business looks at Douglas County and it's not the right fit and they go to Carson City or Lyon County or elsewhere that's going to benefit all of us anyway," said Granahan.