September 1, 2023 By 

Relatively speaking, Nevada’s economy is in its infancy. And despite success in gaming, tourism and entertainment, the Silver State’s economic development faces numerous challenges. Recently, economic specialists met at a roundtable sponsored by City National Bank and held in Las Vegas to discuss the current and future economy of Nevada including its lack of funding, a missing workforce, water scarcity and success in attracting professional sports teams.

Connie Brennan, publisher and CEO of Nevada Business Magazine, served as moderator for the event. These monthly roundtables bring together different industries to discuss issues and solutions.

What Steps Is Nevada Taking to Develop Its Economy?
Tina Quigley: We are not a state that talks about where we need to be [economically] or strategizes [for the future]. We are a state and a community that has been prosperous almost in spite of ourselves, not because of ourselves. For a long time we were the only state that had gaming. As a result of that, hospitality and entertainment [became core industries in Nevada] and we grew. [Our growth is] not because we were out there trying to sell and pitch [Nevada] and create a community that is a place [for businesses] to grow and diversify.

Andrew Woods: [When we forecast the economy] it doesn’t look like there is going to be enough economic diversification in the next 18 years. What happens if we make huge investments in some of these areas that have a lot of spin-offs [such as] manufacturing and healthcare? Those are the two that have a lot of spin-offs in terms of jobs being produced. If we did that seriously and we still let leisure and hospitality grow the way it is supposed to even with automation, AI, technology and sports, we can move the needle significantly.

John Restrepo: Northern Nevada is better off than we are here in southern Nevada at this point. We are still competing with a lot of other states and that is a challenge for us. It is not that California is, necessarily, getting easier to do business in, it is not. But we are competing with Arizona, Texas and Utah and everyone else.

Tom Burns: If you look back at other industrial cities [like] Chicago and Pittsburgh, there was a generational time when those people reinvested in their city. It is the next generation that does it. [Las Vegas] is so young that we do not have the next generation [yet].

Frederick Steinmann: Nevada has the challenge of [not having] multiple generations of the same family, unlike Utah and Arizona. Nevada has always had a very transient population and, historically, there has never been a consistent long term multi-generational investment in critical infrastructure and institutions that support various other community and economic development efforts. Part of that is the state’s history. There has never been anything that has really unified Nevada as a state economy.

Quigley: Truthfully, we are not a state that has ever historically prioritized economic development.

Burns: We did come out with a strategy [for economic development] early this year and one of the pillars was to electrify Nevada. [Our goal is to] bring in clean energy producers, battery manufacturers and lithium processing. Those [industries that] do not use a lot of water and that are a good part of alternative energy for the future. There are also conversations around hydrogen that we are pursuing [and] advanced manufacturing.

Jared Smith: Every municipality has their own unique identity. We can still work together and advertise what makes us unique. It is the uniqueness that our communities have that makes us so strong. Different parts of southern Nevada are attractive to different types of companies [and] different industries. That is a good thing.

Jared Luke: These regional ideas and collaboration [statewide for Nevada’s economic development] is relatively new. There is going to be some consternation about jumping into bed with everybody and making it a regional approach. But I think if it is thoughtful and it is purposeful, then we can identify areas that are prone for specific types of growth for the industries that make sense for Nevada.