Nevada consistently ranks among the highest states for new jobs, new housing and growth in general. Now there’s another top-flight ranking for Nevada: international business —specifically, exports. For the last two calendar years, Nevada has ranked among the top three states in the percentage of increase in exports — 36 percent increase in 1999, 52 percent in 1998. Over the same period — 1998 to 2000 — exports from Nevada climbed from $760 million to $1.6 billion.
Far and away the largest category of exports is electronic and electrical equipment. The American Electronics Association and Nasdaq stock market recently released an analytical report entitled Cyberstates 2001: A State-by-State Overview of the High Technology Industry. According to the report, Nevada led the nation in growth of high-tech exports between 1997 and 2000, exporting $191 million in high-tech goods in 1997, a figure that jumped to $697 million in 2000, for an increase of 264 percent.
“In terms of product area, electronics is the highest,” said Alan Di Stefano, director of global trade and investment, Nevada Commission on Economic Development (NCED). “And in terms of physical area, out of the approximately 700 exporters in the state, the majority of them are located in Northern Nevada, either in Reno/Sparks, or the Carson City/Gardnerville/Minden areas.” Over 100 small companies in the Carson City/Minden area are exporters. In Reno, IGT, the electronic gaming machine manufacturer, exported $200 million worth of products outside the United States in the year 2000.
Why Nevada? How is this landlocked state reaching out to the rest of the world and leading other states in exports? One reason is that, as companies grow in Nevada, they see that the fastest growth in the global economy is occurring outside the United States, said Di Stefano. As companies continue to expand, they continue to look outside their own markets. The steady growth in companies moving to Nevada from other states also has an impact– they bring their export sales along with them.
Where are all the products going? Nevada’s not just a distribution center for the Western United States anymore — we’re sending products everywhere. Canada is our largest export partner, with 38 percent of all exports going to Canada, and Mexico is the second, with 8.3 percent heading south of the border. Third in line is Japan, which accounted for 7 percent of all exports last year. All told, Nevada exports products to 141 countries around the world. With major ports like Oakland and Long Beach only hours away by highway or rail, being a landlocked state makes no difference in our global market.
In addition to U.S. companies exporting out of Nevada, another aspect in international business is that over 70 foreign companies now have their headquarters in Nevada. They are attracted by the same factors as U.S. companies that choose to locate here. “Tax structure is key,” said Di Stefano. “And then, there’s the closeness to California. If California were a stand-alone country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy. So it’s a big draw to be next door to California but not in California with all the problems of California taxes and the crowding in the metropolitan areas. We’ve got the quality of life, as well.” Being the distribution capital of the western U.S., with easy highway, rail and air access, also gives Nevada international appeal.
Between the overall increase in international trade and the effects of NAFTA, Nevada’s exports to Mexico have increased 600 percent in the last two years. Coupled with the recent census announcement of the number of Hispanic citizens in Nevada, a decision has been made to create a Mexican consulate in Nevada, our first permanent foreign consulate. Nevada is becoming an international state, said Gayle Anderson, founder of the Nevada Consul Corps Board and chief of diplomatic relations/protocol for NCED. “We have so many visitors, I am working aggressively with the Consul Corps in Los Angeles, where 85 countries are represented, as well as San Francisco, where 17 are represented.” When Nevada needs to work with a country that has not posted a representative in our state, consuls posted in San Francisco or Los Angeles are responsible for pitching in and working with stranded tourists or to promote business or cultural exchanges. Having consuls actually posted in Nevada would be easier and better, said Anderson, and she is working to convince those countries to place an honorary consul in our own state. Consuls serve not only in the realms of business, but in academic and cultural exchanges and by assisting travelers.
When Anderson started with NCED, there were only four honorary consuls in Nevada. She suggested the state form a Consul Corps Board and hold regularly scheduled meetings to grow the corps. The number swelled to nine, with anticipation of at least five more consuls getting appointments in the next six to eight months. It’s not always easy to get a consul appointed. The candidate’s resume comes through Anderson’s office and makes its way to the U.S. State Department before working its way back to state level. Anderson is working with the Consul General in Los Angeles trying to get honorary consuls from countries such as Canada, Japan and Germany, countries whose citizens visit Nevada frequently and in high numbers. “All our surrounding states have honorary consuls,” said Anderson. “I think Arizona has over 20, Utah has at least 20, and Colorado has an honorary consul corps. It’s important as the state grows and becomes more and more international to have the availability of an honorary consul. If visitors lose their passports or run into other kinds of problems, it’s very important to know their country has a representative here, whom they can call if they’re in some kind of distress.”
In March 2002, Las Vegas will play host to a conference of consuls general and honorary consuls from the western United States, giving them all an introduction to Nevada. “This will provide a chance for Nevada to present the business opportunities that exist here to all of them,” said Anderson. “Speakers from the State Department in Washington will be present, and there will be an exchange of information regarding what’s happening in the states in which the consuls reside, so our consul general will be participating in that, as well.”
In addition to the first permanent foreign consulate, there are other benefits to the upsurge in international business. NAFTA has been very good to Nevada, Di Stefano said. In terms of exports alone, 2,455 jobs in Nevada are supported by the exports to Canada and 293 by exports to Mexico. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, every $71,000 in exports supports one job. Using that formula, Nevada’s $1.6 billion in exports supports 22,000 jobs. “Obviously with our rapid growth in exports, international trade is one of the largest supporters of employment,” said Di Stefano. “As exports grow, the jobs grow also, so it’s one of the largest generators of new jobs within the state.”