Businesses noticing Nevada’s economic development efforts, Sandoval says

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval is getting the vibe that companies looking to relocate or expand are taking a closer look at Nevada now that the state is overhauling its economic development policies.

While the prospect of getting more attention from corporate relocation consultants is promising, Sandoval admitted Thursday that there’s no hard evidence yet and he’s going on what he’s heard from executives and other government leaders.

But for now, it’s a matter of slogging through the details of what the state’s policies and recommendations will look like as members of the Board of Economic Development and its growing staff craft its plan.

The board took another step Thursday, meeting at Switch Communications’ SuperNap facility in Las Vegas and getting updates on what role regional economic development authorities will play in the recruitment process and how the department’s $10 million catalyst fund will be used.

Steve Hill, executive director of the revamped department, said he expects to roll out new policies in early February. Hill also is awaiting an attorney general’s opinion on the constitutionality of the catalyst fund, which has been characterized as a fund to “close deals” on companies considering relocating to the state.

At issue is a section of the Nevada Constitution that says, “The state shall not donate or loan money or its credit, subscribe to or be interested in the stock of any company, association or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”

Guided by a report issued last year by the Brookings Institution and SRI International, Hill and the board are drafting regulations that will revamp the process beginning in July. In the meantime, the state’s Commission on Economic Development will continue to consider tax incentives to companies relocating to or expanding in Nevada.

“What’s really encouraging is that we’re able to take the best practices of other states and make them ours,” Sandoval said. “We won’t have to deal with the mistakes other states have made.”

While board members consider policy matters, they’re also hearing from other organizations with roles in economic development.

Thursday, the board heard presentations from the Carson City-based Knowledge + Discovery Center, an economic development public-private partnership focused on diversifying downtown Carson City, and from state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who described a private equity investment fund created by the passage and signing of Senate Bill 75 last year.

While the bill is designed to help fund K-12 education, Marshall said an ancillary goal is for the fund to support economic diversification. Marshall said a seven-person board would seek a manager to administer the fund and vet investment requests that would provide at least a 4 percent return on investment.

Sandoval also announced new hires for the department. Bob Potts, assistant director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, will join the department as an analyst, and Dave Berns, a business writer with the Las Vegas Sun, will become the department’s new communications officer.

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