By Mark Waite
Nye County is submitting a proposal to the governor’s office to establish the Nye County Regional Economic Development Authority NCREDA and asks for $200,000 from the Nevada Office of Economic Development.
The request is being made despite a bad track record for local development organizations.
The latest acronym, NCREDA, will replace EDEN, an organization for which the county terminated its contract last year. EDEN was formerly the Economic Development of Esmeralda and Nye County until Esmeralda County terminated its relationship a few years ago.
Before EDEN there was NEEDA, the Nye Esmeralda Economic Development Authority, where director Darlys Smiith was fired in July 1995 on allegations of embezzling $15,000 and doctoring minutes.
The decision not to renew the EDEN contract was based on complaints that much of the work was already being done by county staff or contractors. The Rural Nevada Development Corporation was asked to help with business expansion, retention and new businesses.
County commissioners were asked to be the point of contact for prospective businesses in their respective districts. Former Pahrump Regional Planning Commission Chairman Mark Kimball was hired as a part-time ombudsman to act as a liaison between companies wanting to locate in Nye County and county planners.
Nye County Commissioner Joni Eastley was leery Tuesday about a repeat of previous problems with economic development agencies, particularly EDEN. She wanted more information on the membership of the proposed regional development authority.
“It’s going to sound like I’m criticizing the people who volunteered to serve in the past. I realize the restrictions they were operating against, but are you going to set some standards who can serve?” Eastley asked.
Nye County Manager Pam Webster said it’s a three-year program; it probably won’t achieve some of its goals the first year of its existence. The first year the county will establish its plan with a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, she said.
The board of directors would include representatives from Amargosa Valley, Beatty, Gabbs, Pahrump, Round Mountain and Tonopah.
The Tonopah and Beatty economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, business workforce development organizations, the Nye County School District and business entities would also participate.
Commissioner Butch Borasky inquired about the economic development director position. Webster said the director will be selected by the NCREDA board of directors.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said, “and we’ll select the board.”
“Yeah, if that’s the way we have it set up,” Webster replied.
Nye County already pays a $10,000 annual fee to be members of the Nevada Development Authority. The county also contracts with BEC Environmental on economic development work, BEC principal scientist Eileen Christensen reported Tuesday she was actively targeting 50 developers and prepared 13 grant applications that garnered $1.26 million.
BEC Environmental also helped execute lease agreements with solar developers at Tonopah Airport.
In return, commissioners approved a fifth change order with BEC Environmental for $20,000 to continue with renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability projects in Nye County. Their total cost of work since their original contract was signed amounts to $495,000 over the past few years.
Under the NCREDA application, Nye County commits to provide $401,290 in matching funds for the $200,000 state grant, of which $301,290 would be in-kind support from personnel time by the county manager, community development director, grants administrator, admininstrative assistants and the volunteer NCREDA board.
The county plans to try to leverage an additional $67,000 to support NCREDA business retention and economic diversification activities, mostly from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to prepare an area wide plan for renewable energy development.
The regional development authority is in conjunction with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s new State Plan for Excellence in Economic Development.
The application notes the unemployment rate in Nye County, which hit 17.1 percent in December 2010 and has exceeded the national unemployment rate by more than 150 percent from 2008 to 2010.
Last year, Nye County was ranked as one of the top five most economically disadvantaged counties in the nation by the Associated Press, this year the Small Business Administration designated Nye County a historically under-utilized business zone HUB .
The NCREDA will target seven sectors: clean energy, health and medical services, mining, materials and manufacturing, aerospace and defense, business I.T. ecosystems, logistics and operations, tourism, gaming and entertainment.
A general membership board will consist of a series of eight teams to address eight program elements: business retention and growth, marketing branding and recruitment, a team connecting the work force to jobs, a team to redevelop blighted or under-utilized properties, a team to seek international opportunities, a team determining what economic sectors to develop, a governmental affairs team and one to pursue regional collaborations with other partnerships.
County officials met March 19 with representatives from Great Basin College, the Nye County School District, Workforce Connections, the NyE Communities Coalition and others in one of the first steps to form the NCREDA.
Part of the scope of work includes working with a company to establish an EB-5 regional center, a program designed to attract grants to bring foreign investment into the county.
The county submitted the application along with letters of support from Great Basin College, the Nye County School District, the Beatty town advisory board, town of Pahrump and town of Tonopah, the Beatty Economic Development Corporation, the Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce, Pahrump Utility Company, Rural Nevada Development Corporation, Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, Utilities Inc. and Valley Electric Association.
A letter from BEC Environmental talked about the limited funding for economic development activities the new RDA program should remedy.
In their letter of support, Front Sight Resort said 22,000 students came to their firearms institute in 2011.
Bill Verbeck, chief executive officer of the newly-formed Mount Charleston Corporation, said his nonprofit organization will work on economic development and workforce training.