By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Since 2011, Nevada has granted billions in tax incentives to large businesses that would, in turn, bring in jobs and major investments to the state.
It resulted in multi-billion-dollar companies like Tesla, Amazon and Apple moving to the region.
Now, however, it’s time to switch those tax-break incentives to small businesses, the mayor of Reno said on Nevada Newsmakers Tuesday.
“A lot of those larger companies already get a lot of incentives so I think that really we should be focusing on small businesses and startups and innovation,” Mayor Hillary Schieve said.
Schieve applauded the state’s successful efforts to attract big businesses to Reno and the nearby Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center during hard economic times. However, it is the time for a new approach, she told host Sam Shad.
“In the recession, we had to do something,” Schieve said. “We really did and most people who know that process is highly competitive. That is just how it is. We watched all over the news about the Amazon headquarters and the cities and states going back and forth because it was highly, highly competitive.
“But what I would like to see, actually, is those incentives going to small businesses. Because those are the largest job creators in the country and I think those are the things that we should really be focusing on,” she said.
The plan to lure the major companies to Nevada did not include enough planning to house the new residents, Schieve said.
“The state really gave a lot of incentives for Tesla to bring them here and things like that but local governments were really kind of left behind because I think they should have set aside (a plan) to build more affordable housing.”
Attracting and nurturing small businesses will help shield the Reno economy in future downturns, Schieve said.
“Right now we are seeing a lot of drone companies coming to Reno, which is great. Being able to diversify is really going to make the difference in a downturn in the economy. That is what got us in trouble (in the last recession). We really relied on gaming but that is not sustainable. Gaming is critical to the region but we still have to diversify and I think that is through small business, innovation and technology.”
The mayor praised some large businesses and developers for trying to help alleviate the housing problems the growth has caused. And the short-term job growth of the area is stunning. Consider:
* The Reno metro area was ranked No. 1 nationwide for job growth by the Milken Institute’s 2018 Best-Performing Cities List, which was released in January, according to a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
* Reno-Sparks also added 48,000 new jobs in the last five years.
* The year of 2018 saw 29 companies move or expand into the area — including 15 headquarter relocations.
“The good thing is that you are seeing companies like Blockchains LLC really start wanting to be in the fabric of the community, which is great,” she said. “I’ve also known (TRIC developer) Roger Norman personally for a long time. He is a great guy but he is also building housing. He has come to me with a couple of projects for affordable (housing) and that is great. So it is good to see them realizing that there could be an issue of ‘Where are we going to put everyone?’ ”
The economic growth for the area is continuing, even though Blockchains LLC, bought the final remaining piece of land (68,000 acres) in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.
In July, Mark IV Capital announced plans for an industrial park on 4,300 acres near Nevada Pacific Parkway in East Fernley.
Workers at that industrial park will be living in Fernley and Reno, Schieve said.
“I think you are going to see a little bit of both,” she said. “I still there has to be a balance and I also think that a lot of people still want to live in Reno. We have a lot to offer.”
One of the positives for Reno is it’s improving downtown core, Schieve said.
“I think we are going to see a huge change downtown. I have always said that downtown will look so different in about three years. You won’t even recognize it,” she said.
She praised the work downtown done by Eldorado Resorts and Jeff Jacobs, CEO of Jacobs Entertainment and owner of the Gold Dust West Casino.
Jacobs has purchased and demolished seedy downtown motels in the recent past but turned others into modern housing. He has also donated funds to the local housing authority as he continues with plans for what it called the Neon Line District in downtown’s West Fourth Street corridor.
Eldorado Resorts, based in Reno, recently became the largest gaming company in the world after buying Caesars Entertainment in a $17 billion deal. Eldorado now owns four major downtown Reno gaming properties — the Eldorado, Circus-Circus, the Silver Legacy and Harrah’s.
“For the most part, throughout the community, they are excited to see this new vision for downtown,” Schieve said. “If you look at what it looks like today, it is really, really cleaning up down there and I think people are going to be really impressed with what his (Jacobs’) total outlook is.”
Schieve spoke proudly that the largest gaming company in the world is headquartered in Reno.
“I think you are going to see some pretty big entertainment because the stakes are high for them,” Schieve said. “I think they are really proud to keep it right here in Reno, Nevada. They could have gone to Las Vegas but said ‘No, this is home.’ And I am proud of them.”