Nevada’s great “outback” is getting a boost from a new state grants program that blends tourism and economic development. The concept seemed like a natural, especially for Nevada, where tourism is the number one economic engine, and tourism and economic development go arm in arm. The Grant Program for the Development of Projects Related to Tourism, passed by the 2001 Legislature and signed by Gov. Kenny Guinn, is structured to assist both tourism and economic development with one check. This new program is designed to help struggling rural Nevada build or develop projects that stimulate the local tourism economy.
Sparsely populated rural Nevada, the great outback, comprises the lion’s share of the state’s 70.2 million acres but does not generate lucrative tax revenue as do cities like Reno or Las Vegas. Small, remote communities often must scramble to scrape together funding for even modest projects that will attract visitors to fuel their economies. Tourism development grants bridge the gap between existing funding plans by helping communities develop publicly owned property and facilities that will specifically support and attract visitors.
Currently, the Nevada Commission on Economic Development (NCED) offers Community Development Block Grants to help meet infrastructure needs in small communities, and the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) awards rural grants to fund marketing and advertising to increase tourism. The new program combines both goals into one. A committee of three commissioners each from NCOT and NCED administers the grants, and the lieutenant governor is chair.
Nevada’s Tourism Surprise: Outback Adventures
There’s more to the story. NCOT is taking a new promotional approach that focuses heavily on outdoor adventure from “soft” to rugged. If ever a landscape was made for adventure, it’s Nevada’s outback. Its dramatic high desert and majestic mountain landscapes are ideally suited to adventure-seekers, whether for camping and hiking or helicopter skiing and kayaking. Tourism development grants tie in with the adventure travel campaign, which is aimed primarily at rural Nevada – nearly all of the state, geographically. Starting this winter, the adventure travel campaign will show the world a Nevada attraction long overshadowed by the glittering casinos and entertainment.
It takes money to help rural communities reach lofty goals, but before receiving funding, they need a vision and a plan for transforming it to reality. We will work with Nevada’s rural communities and elicit their own analyses of what would help them become economically vibrant and create greater visitor appeal. They might need a hospitality campaign to ensure that visitors are welcomed and favorably impressed, new signage to alert and direct people to attractions, or a rodeo arena or other public facility for staging events that draw tourists.
Our communities’ needs are no mystery. We want to give travelers a compelling reason to venture into the outback, to stop and visit museums and historic attractions, take in some sightseeing and outdoor recreation, stay for a meal, do some shopping, and spend the night. Like a lucky winner, tourism-friendly communities sometimes hit a jackpot; attracting a visitor who falls in love with the quality of life or other amenities and decides to come back and open or relocate a business there.
Grant recipients must provide local matching funds, and communities of 45,000 or less will receive priority. Applications must be postmarked no later than January 18, 2002. Further information is available by calling Larry Friedman at NCOT, 775-687-4322 or Carl Dahlen at NCED, 775-687-4325. Tourism development grants can help communities position themselves to attract such desirable economic growth, which benefits everyone. It’s a win-win concept.