Manufacturing runs the economy, in Nevada and around the developed world. If it isn’t grown or mined, it has to be manufactured. If it’s grown, it was grown with manufactured products. If it was mined, it was mined with manufactured products and the results were put into more manufactured products. Just look around you – that phone didn’t grow from a beanstalk; your desk was not planted and nurtured to arrive at its finished state; even this magazine needed manufacturing help before making its way to your hands.
The products made in Nevada are staggering in their variety and awe-inspiring in their ingenuity. From biscotti to tea to pens, dolls, motorcycles, furniture, salsa, brownies, wine, jewelry, pool heaters, medals, from cottage industries to heavy industry, Nevada is making things happen. And the state is eager to brag – across the state and around the country.
Art Nadler, the Made in Nevada Coordinator for the partnership between the Nevada Commission on Economic Development and the Manufacturing Assistance Partnership, says that last year at the annual Governor’s Economic Development Conference, the Made in Nevada companies had two six-foot tables for display of products. This year they had 60 companies displaying products to the over 600 conference attendees. “People associate Nevada only with gambling,” he says, “so we start mentioning these companies and people get fascinated.”
One company that moved here about three years ago from San Jose is Advanced Sputtering Material. Sputtering is a process by which a thin film is deposited on material for such things as wear resistance and protection from ultraviolet light. Frank Ferris, Program Manager, says the company has been happy with the change for the same reasons so many companies come here. “The company chose Nevada because of the negatives of San Jose and the positives of Northern Nevada,” he says. “Obviously there is the business climate, the actual climate, affordable housing, quality of living, and the tax structures.” All these advantages while still being close enough to Silicon Valley to satisfy customer needs.
Manufacturing is a big part of economic development throughout the state. Chuck Alvey, Chief Operating Officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), says his staff interacts with companies on the front end, middle, and sometimes the back end when dealing with manufacturing. When company representatives express interest in Western Nevada, Alvey puts them in contact with people who can help meet their needs or give them information. If the company is expanding, he can hook them up with other companies who have expanded here. If they are relocating, he can sit them down with other new Nevada businesses. He helps manufacturers with finding suppliers and distributors, understanding the tax regulations, and talking up the community.
Kris Holt, Executive Director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, performs a similar function in Carson, Lyon, Douglas, and Storey Counties. “Our primary job,” he says, “is to recruit manufacturers and help existing ones expand.” With approximately 300 manufacturers within his jurisdiction and new companies moving in all the time, that’s quite a job. But he loves it. His office helps create about 300-500 jobs each year.
Somer Hollingsworth, President/CEO of Nevada Development Authority in Las Vegas, says the incentives the state offers to business were designed for manufacturers and simply expanded into other areas, so the state is often an easy sell. Las Vegas, in particular, can be an attractive deal for manufacturers because of shipping. Trucks bring goods into the city every day from around the country. Truckers don’t want to be heading home with empty cargo spaces, so shipping is not only central and regular, it is often cheap as well.
Alvey, Holt, and Hollingsworth all love this state, a fact that comes through in even the most casual conversation. They all emphasize the quality of life in Nevada, the arts, the natural beauty, the economic climate, the pro-business politics. But they also love to solve problems. Matching industry with space and employers with employees, economic development can seem like a big jigsaw puzzle. With manufacturing, that puzzle takes on another dimension. Many factors need to come together: the raw materials that will make up the products, the people to produce the products, the places to store the products, the transportation to ship the products. Economic development tries to bring together all those aspects of business without losing sight of the added bonuses that make Nevada such a great place to live.
Alvey does not actively recruit low-paying businesses. He says they do nothing for infrastructure. He doesn’t want low benefit companies who put a strain on the system. And he stays away from environmentally unfriendly industries that pollute or use excessive amounts of water. “We don’t want people coming here just to save a buck,” he says, “we want them to be part of the community.” Holt and Hollingsworth agree, Holt adding that his office will talk to anyone, but the time and effort goes into the businesses that best benefit the community in the long run.
When it comes to manufacturing, trends can be seen in the types of companies coming to Nevada (or growing up here). Holt says that in his area, machine shops, aerospace-related, auto parts, medical instrumentation, and plastics are the bread and butter. The typical company is a family-oriented “mom-and-pop” outfit with 5-50 employees. Though the area does attract some high tech industries, it is not his primary target. Holt prefers pure manufacturing with a wide range of jobs at all different levels. When it comes to new recruits, he would like to see more suppliers – those who come up with a component of a product that goes into someone else’s product.
Las Vegas is a little different. Hollingsworth says he targets communications (e-commerce and dot coms), medical/biomedical, and the auto industry. Each of these areas has a strong element of technology in it. “We recruit technology,” he says, “We think it’s the future of what we’re doing in this valley.” He would like to see more fabrication companies come to town, however.
Reno falls right in the middle, looking for the big dogs, the young pups, and everyone in between. Alvey sees potential problems in the warehousing business, and says the trend toward immediate gratification is cutting into warehousing. Rather than building 1500 computers and storing them for sale, companies are finding that customers can go online and customize an order for a computer with only the components they want. Then the computer is built and shipped with nothing to warehouse. Though he says the trend is not “dangerous” right now, it is a concern.
However, everything needs to be shipped, and distribution still remains a major attraction to manufacturers looking at both Reno and Las Vegas. With international airports, major interstate access, and lots of cargo shippers, it’s easy to get products from Reno and Las Vegas to the rest of the world.
Holt’s district of Carson, Lyon, Douglas, and Storey counties does not fare quite as well. With no easy rail or interstate access, Holt focuses more on roll-up doors than loading docks – small products with low volume and high costs. “We’re a little off the beaten path,” he says, though his area can claim about 18 distinct warehousing facilities.
The future sees continuing, though slower, growth in manufacturing. Ray Bacon, Executive Director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, says predictions are that the economic boom we’ve been seeing will go on for another ten years. Part of this is due to the Baby Boomers. He says people tend to buy durable goods at two times in their lives: first when they are in their 20s and 30s, getting married, buying a house and the like; and second in their 40s and 50s when the kids have left the house and the empty nesters start buying motor homes, new cars, second homes, etc. This second phase in spending is going on now and is expected to continue through 2008 or 2010. That means 74 million boomers are buying new toys and homes and cars while their kids are just getting into their first homes and cars. That’s a lot of people who need a lot of manufactured products.
Hollingsworth says he is seeing a four to five-fold increase in the number of companies he is working with this year over last year. “Everyone is realizing we are more than gaming,” he says. “The business climate is excellent.” Alvey agrees: “We are fast growing and people are recognizing how business friendly Nevada is. We are vibrant now and will continue to see growth.” Holt says the past will help the future: “Once you have a name and establish yourself, you get referrals from the existing base. We have a network, and then it’s a matter of timing.”