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Task force develops strategy for diversifying Nevada’s economy

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011 | 1:11 p.m.

The New Nevada Task Force, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s team of economic development experts, completed its task of developing a statewide diversification strategy by delivering a series of reports outlining how the state should use the resources it has to recruit new business and industry.

Many of the highlights of the task force’s work were referenced Monday night in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s state of the state address.

Representatives of the 23-member task force presented nine reports, each summarizing a piece of the plan designed to capitalize on an existing strength with suggestions on how Sandoval and the Legislature could use the state’s limited resources to build diversification.

When the board first began meeting last summer, Krolicki said the report would be delivered to the Legislature before it convened so that any proposals that required legislation could be incorporated in bill drafts.

It was no coincidence that Sandoval referenced some of the panel’s work in his speech. Economic development has been an important part of his efforts to solve the state’s budget woes. Sandoval’s chief of staff, Heidi Gansert, was a member of the task force.

The task force, formed last summer, had a goal of delivering final reports prior to the Legislature convening.

Most of the reports offered broad strategies for policymakers to consider and suggestions on how to implement them.

The process also made it clear to task force members something they already knew – that they can’t allow party politics, philosophical differences and rivalries between the northern and southern ends of the states to get in the way of what’s in the state’s best interest.

“We all have to play nicely together,” Krolicki warned. “Leave your egos at the door. This is all about creating jobs.”

While Monday’s meeting was the last formal gathering of the task force, Krolicki said members may be called upon to expand on their ideas before legislative committees.

Many of the task force’s nine subcommittee reports included overlapping information. While some of them addressed specific policy recommendations, like renewable energy development, international business development, business expansion in the national defense sector, bio-science technology and medical tourism and film and digital media production, other reports focused on how specific resources could be used to further other goals – road, rail and air transportation resources, Bureau of Land Management land acquisition and fostering public-private partnerships.

Some of the highlights from the reports:

*A subcommittee on technology commercialization recommended adopting program similar to the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative that met with success in a short period of time. The plan capitalizes on public-private partnerships with companies that already have invested in Nevada, such as Varian Medical Systems, Bigelow Aerospace, Siemens and General Electric. Goals would include attracting research grants, developing educational programs within the state’s universities to capitalize on jobs provided in the technology sector and encouraging entrepreneurs to work with established local companies.

*A subcommittee on renewable energy suggested determining what obstacles currently exist that impede the development of power production facilities in solar, wind and geothermal resources. Included in that list would be issues that could be solved by legislative action and what requires federal intervention. The group also suggested mapping “fast-track” projects that could be developed by the end of the year. It also suggested identifying minerals that can be mined in Nevada that would be a part of the energy supply chain, such as battery storage. Lithium and vanadium already have been identified.

*The group studying film and digital media production recommended learning what incentives other states use to lure production to them and find ways to compete with them. The report also recommended incentives tied to employing Nevada residents. The group also suggested informing production and post-production companies to consider developing facilities in Nevada with the same incentives already offered by the Nevada Commission on Economic Development for new companies and expansions.

*The subcommittee report on public-private partnerships also suggested that new businesses could thrive with new industry related to sports. The committee suggested that the financing and development of a sports arena could support professional sports and securing a major professional sports franchise in Southern Nevada, such as a National Basketball Association team, could spur additional investment. The international business development subcommittee also had a sports component, noting that transportation and hospitality infrastructure could be enhanced with a successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

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