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Nevada officials are honing their corporate courtship skills to lure new business, but one consultant says the state suffers from an "inferiority complex" and would do well to tout its strengths with a little swagger.
During a meeting Thursday at GE Energy in Minden, Lorna Shepard with Noble Studios told the Board of Economic Development that the state's attributes are beaten down by the focus on its challenges and weaknesses.
"There's a belief there's not a great education system," she said, saying there is a "perception problem" about the state.
The remarks were met with raised eyebrows by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
"I could point to anyone in the room and they'd say that Nevada is not inferior to anywhere else," he said.
Sandoval, chairman of the panel, has made economic development a cornerstone of his administration. He created the Governor's Office on Economic Development to centralize and prioritize the state's efforts.
In February, the office unveiled an economic development plan that calls for targeting seven core industries. Legislation passed in 2011 also created a $10 million "catalyst fund" to help to create economic growth.
Economic Development Director Steve Hill said criteria for how funding will be allocated has been finalized.
"The catalyst fund is open for business," he declared, adding he hopes the fund will help generate 3,000 to 4,000 jobs.
While the governor was chagrined by the inferiority comment, it spurred a discussion that took on the tone of an of empowerment seminar.
"We have wonderful things in play," said Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki. "There are things we can be proud of," he said, noting Nevada's Millennium Scholarship that provides Nevada high school graduates with sufficient grades with up to $10,000 to attend a state college or university.
Sam Routson of Winnemucca Farms, an agriculture representative on the economic board, agreed.
"Nevada is an undiscovered world and we need to make that known," he said.
Board members also discussed recruiting executives of established companies to be ambassadors for luring new business, and Sandoval suggested welcoming signs at airports bearing the logos of corporate residents.
Hill also said he's like to establish a partnership with private firms to help get the word out about Nevada's business attributes. He suggested a separate account funded with private dollars would allow the state to court corporate clients using I-Pads as calling cards, pre-loaded with contact and other pertinent information relevant to their specific industry.
The state economic plan sets out goals for the next three years and a framework to coordinate efforts between government agencies, the private sector and education systems.
Coordinating at the local level, however, presents some challenges and inconsistencies, board members were told.
Shepard and said while companies she's interviewed generally give positive feedback about their contact with the state, they sometimes express frustration dealing with local entities, described by some as being "zealous" in their duties to enforce construction and business codes.