That ginormous battery factory out at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center may be the most headline-grabbing company ever to locate in the region, but northern Nevada’s real economic recovery has had little to do with Tesla or Panasonic.
There’s no denying Tesla spurred a flurry of construction activity in the region, and its decision to locate here certainly lent northern Nevada a healthy dose of credibility as a great place to do business. But the region’s robust economy really is rooted in the other 99 percent of companies that have moved operations to northern Nevada in recent years.
A look at a handful of the dozens of businesses that call northern Nevada home since 2014, and the number of jobs they’ve brought:
|Angies Artisan Treats||160|
|Mary’s Gone Crackers||365|
|Better World Books||200|
Although those employment numbers are much smaller than Tesla’s projected 6,500 jobs, it’s clear that the companies already here have done the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to sparking the region’s economic rebound.
And that’s only a small number of the many companies that have hung their flags throughout the Truckee Meadows or at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. Apple, Randa Accessories, Chewy.com, Diapers.com, Scougal Rubber, Benco Dental, Schluter Systems, Urban Outfitters, Amazon, the list goes on and on — and so does the hiring.
Mike Kazmierski, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, says that although Tesla is here and has begun hiring, its employment is just a specter compared to what’s been projected at the Gigafactory.
“If you look at the growth we have had in last four years, Tesla has been here in name, and certainly it’s had an impact on the construction industry, but Tesla has not really hired many people,” Kazmierski says. “Most of the growth is from the other 99 percent that have come to the region.”
And many of those companies have strengthened the region’s ever-growing manufacturing base. If distribution and logistics are the foundation of northern Nevada’s economic strength, then manufacturing is the beams and boards that complete the house.
Kazmierski feels northern Nevada is poised to become the manufacturing capital of the western region.
“We have had great success in attracting food manufacturing, and that’s directly linked to our logistics and distribution strength,” he says. “We have the potential, with the help of the state, to become the advanced manufacturing region of the West. We were well on our way before Tesla even looked at us.
“The prospects we are talking with now, nearly half are in the manufacturing sector,” he adds. “Going forward, manufacturing will continue to be an area where we see a lot of potential.”
Food manufacturers, such as Angie’s, Mary’s Gone Crackers, ConAgra Foods (formerly Ralston) and SK Foods, among others, love operating in northern Nevada due to its low humidity and relative lack of pesky flying/crawling insects compared to other regions. Plus, Nevada is a neighbor to the sixth largest economy in the world, but manufacturing companies don’t have to deal with California’s onerous environmental regulations.
Manufacturing, Kazmierski adds, will help the region better weather the next economic downturn. From Scougal Rubber and its bearing pads for bridges and buildings to Angie’s Artisan Treats and its tasty Boomchickapop popcorn, manufacturing brings the kinds of sustainable jobs northern Nevada needs.
Take Ardagh Group as an example. The company’s can-making plant on Waltham Way at TRIC will continue to churn out hundreds of millions of cans each year for ConAgra Foods, it’s primary customer, regardless of whether the economy is bullish or bearish. Ardagh invested more than $70 million in its new facility, mostly in advanced robotics.
Workers who specialize in programming robotic manufacturing systems and technology aren’t the same as production workers who stood in line and performed the same task 10,000 times. And it’s those kinds of high-paying jobs that further separate Greater Reno-Sparks from the rest of the west.
Throw in a growing number of technology companies, such as Apple and Switch, and the numerous call-center operations that located primarily in South Meadows in recent years, and you have the nucleus of a diverse and strong economy, regardless of what Tesla brings to the table.
That kind of job diversity will help lure even more talented workers to northern Nevada, Kazmierski says.
“It’s incredibly important — it gives people a lot of options with lots of different jobs with multiple companies in different industries. That opens the door to people with different skill sets. If people come to an area, they want to find opportunities in many different sectors. Broad-based job growth is good not only for the economy but for the people in the region.
“There’s no question these groups have swung the needle,” Kazmierski adds.
They are up and running and hiring thousands of Nevadans, and that has moved us to where we are. We’ve only seen a fraction of where we are going. As Tesla and Panasonic start to ramp up and add workforce, we will see this growth continue and accelerate.”