This opinion column was submitted by RGJ columnist Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.
The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year at the State of the Economy Luncheon on January 26, which is open to the public. Most would agree that our economy in 2023 will be very different than it was in 1983. As the community’s only economic development agency, EDAWN has a significant stake in this transition. How did EDAWN get started, and what has it done to help revitalize our economy?
The recession of the early 1980s forced the community to think about economic development. In 1982, Reno had just lost Hewlett-Packard, a key prospect in finding a location for their new plant. This decision reveals that prospects view the community as one dominated by a gaming culture, city officials who do not support economic development, and insufficient regional planning. Unemployment in Nevada tops 10 percent, construction has nearly ground to a halt as mortgage interest rates hover around 16 percent, and the region’s gaming and tourism sector is beginning to feel competitive pressures. from the newly opened casinos in Atlantic City. It’s time for a change.
EDAWN was born. A group of business leaders who have been meeting for lunch for several years to discuss the region’s economy decided it was time for a dedicated, professional economic development organization. Bob Lewis, an executive at Sierra Pacific Resources, is leading the effort to revive the new economic development organization. For more than a year, Lewis met with local government representatives, schools, businesses and nonprofits to build support for economic development. In early 1982, a community summit meeting led to the creation of an 18-person steering committee to establish the structure of the economic development group. That summer, the legal papers were filed, and the nonprofit Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) was born.
The first 30 years. EDAWN opened for business in early 1983 in a small office at the Reno-Cannon International Airport. Shelby Dill, who helped strengthen the economy of Colorado Springs, was hired as EDAWN’s first executive director. Ken Lynn replaced Dill from 1988 to 1998; Followed by Chuck Alvey from 1998 to 2011; and Mike Kazmierski has been president and CEO since 2011. The region has scored some impressive gains in economic development shortly after the creation of EDAWN. Porsche Cars North America established its headquarters here; RR Donnelly broke ground in 1985 on a major Stead printing facility. In late 1984, EDAWN reported attracting 33 companies, employing more than 5,000 workers.
EDAWN’s 2012 pivot. After the Great Recession of 2009, with Indian sports now in most states and the housing market crashing, EDAWN changed its approach to increase economic diversity in the region. The decision to focus on advanced manufacturing, technology and corporate headquarters has created some remarkable successes, including Tesla, Google, Panasonic, Apple, Switch and many others. The organization also works with our existing employers to maximize their success and assist in their expansion efforts. In addition, support for startups and entrepreneurial ecosystem development has become a priority for EDAWN. Startups have created hundreds of jobs in the region, and in 2021 investment investments in young companies set a record of more than $1.4 billion.
Economic development is a team sport. The next 40 years will likely be very different than the last 40 years. However, the continued emphasis on advanced manufacturing, technology and entrepreneurs will keep the Reno-Sparks economy on the right track. Community development (a new focus for EDAWN), workforce development and support for our existing companies and entrepreneurs must remain a priority, not only for EDAWN but for entire community. EDAWN’s small nonprofit group and community-based board can only do so much. Economic development is a team sport, and our ability to diversify and transform our economy takes the support and partnership of the entire community. Our success in the next 40 years will require this same commitment and support.EDAWN’s State of the Economy Northern Nevada Economic Update Luncheon will be held on Thursday, Jan. 26, with presentations by Mike Kazmierski of EDAWN and Brian Gordon of Applied Analytics. For details, contact Sheila Imsdahl at [email protected] or 775-829-3704.
RGJ columnist Mike Kazmierski is the president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. Much of the historical information in this article is based on research done by John Seelmeyer.
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