Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2022

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Sun Editorial:

To spur state, officials need a wide view of economic development

ON THE RECORD

Gov. Brian Sandoval last month appointed Steve Hill as the interim executive director of the newly created Office of Economic Development. The Las Vegas Sun’s Anjeanette Damon interviewed Hill on her TV show, “To the Point,” on Sept. 24. Here are some of Hill’s thoughts on economic development.

On the state’s business environment, including low taxes and friendly regulatory structure:

It’s important that we have a great business environment ... The business environment includes not only low taxes. Our state is very nimble, there’s great accessibility to decision makers and the ability to get things done quickly ... That is in pretty stark contrast with some of our neighboring states.

Companies that are looking to grow in Nevada or looking from outside the state to expand into Nevada have the ability to get very quickly to the head of an agency or the governor or lieutenant governor ...

On the organization for economic development:

The focus of the state on economic development is at a height we haven’t seen before and haven’t needed to see before. The urgency of the situation we have has brought focus and energy to economic development.

On having elected officials, including the governor, and legislative appointees on the new state advisory board for economic development:

Having a bipartisan, agreed-upon approach to economic development is a really important facet of this. We don’t have political battles in economic development right now. It needs to stay that way, so having them participate is really important.

Economic development has become a focal point this year for state leaders intent on trying to kick-start the economy.

With the support of Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has pledged to make economic development a priority, the Legislature passed a bill that reorganizes the state’s economic development efforts, creating a new cabinet-level agency to lead the charge. The bill also provides money to help new businesses and industries, as well as funding for research and development.

Last month, Sandoval appointed Steve Hill as the interim director of the new Office of Economic Development. Hill, who started this week, is a good choice to lead the effort: He’s a former construction industry executive and is well connected in the business community, having been a leader in the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. His new job is a big one. The state has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and is still heavily dependent on two industries, gaming and mining.

The legislation will provide some help — the reorganization and the extra money are positive steps — but it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea for the state’s woes. When it comes to economic development, Nevada has considerable ground to make up. During the state’s decades-long development boom, economic development wasn’t a priority, and efforts to attract new business have been underfunded and unfocused.

Now that the nation is struggling through a distressed economy, the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades, there is an urgency to bring new businesses and jobs here. That is welcome, but the state has to be realistic: It’s going to take time to build Nevada’s economy, and it will take a broader approach than what has been done in the past.

Officials have typically tried to sell businesses on Nevada by pitching the state’s low tax structure and business-friendly environment. Taxes and regulation are important to businesses, but they aren’t everything. If they were, Nevada wouldn’t be in the situation it’s in, and California would be desperate to diversify.

Studies have shown that businesses also want good infrastructure and an educated workforce, and Nevada hasn’t been able to compete with other states on many points. The state’s education system has struggled, and Nevada doesn’t have the type of workers many industries want.

The reorganization of the state’s economic development efforts is a good start, but the focus can’t just be on attracting businesses to Nevada. State officials have to include improving what’s here — the businesses in the state and the services people need.

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