Stronger Economies Together Regional Team Launches in Fallon
Goal is to Develop Regional Plan for 8-County Area
The Stronger Economies Together (SET) regional team met for the first time Feb. 16, launching an intensive nine-month strategic planning and training program. The team will develop an economic plan for an eight-county area, complete a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) that will enhance each community’s ability to apply for funds, and develop understanding and skill in economic development processes through hands-on training.
Participants included residents of four area tribes and the counties of Carson, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Humboldt, Pershing, Mineral and Storey. The eight counties comprise the Western Nevada Development District, which requested the SET process as a means to accomplish its economic development strategy. A total of 38 regional team members and 16 partners gathered for the two-day launch conference in Fallon. The program was funded by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, with sponsorship from Rural Nevada Development Corporation and NV Energy.
Dana Bennett, of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, applauded the SET regional team for embracing the first principle of regional success — working to "foster better collaboration across jurisdiction lines."
Workshop participants discussed such regional development principles as the need to:
- Seize regional competitive advantage
- Invest in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure
- Adopt technologies that strengthen competitive advantage
- Strengthen rural labor markets and boost worker skills
- Restructure agriculture by increasing value added business activities, and
- Improve the delivery of public services
SET is a national training curriculum to assist rural communities in developing a regional plan while teaching community members the basics of economic development. It has been co-developed by the Southern Rural Development Center and USDA Rural Development.
In Nevada, the program is led by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, USDA Rural Development, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, in partnership with the University Center for Economic Development, the University of Nevada Reno’s Small Business Development Center, Western Nevada Development District, the Nevada Rural Development Council, and the Connect Nevada state broadband initiative. Nevada is now one of 20 states to participate in the SET curriculum.
USDA Rural Development State Director Sarah Adler said the launch conference helped participants better understand how to leverage their region’s competitive advantages to create diverse job opportunities from a range of supporting businesses.
The eight-county region is rich in opportunities for manufacturing, agriculture, renewable energy, and distribution and logistics, Adler said. Other industries may also be identified as participants comb through the demographic and economic data analysis that is at the core of the SET process.
Participants were encouraged to focus on innovation and authenticity. Economic development expert Karen Craig pointed out that the Burning Man art festival could be leveraged into a year-round cultural experience if the "big art" of Burning Man were distributed to the region’s small towns, making them a draw for year-round tourism.
Many communities in the region have already completed plans, and participants in the SET kickoff meeting focused on what those local economic development approaches have in common. Regional team members participated in a simulated decision-making process known as The Futures Game, in which participants learn long-term vision and avoid a zig-zag decision-making approach that often leaves communities where they started.
In upcoming sessions, the SET regional team will focus on team building, identifying target industries in the region, learning about the supply chains into those industries, and identifying assets that can be shared and built upon within the region. In addition, detailed data will be provided as part of the process of identifying the assets in the region.
Participants also discussed who else should be involved in creating an economic blueprint for the region. While representatives from local development authorities, education, workforce development, real estate, and local governments were present, more participation is encouraged from the sectors and private businesses throughout the region. Individuals interested in joining the SET process are encouraged to contact Ron Radil at Western Nevada Development District at (775) 883-4413.
Information on the Nevada SET program is available online at http://www.unce.unr.edu/programs/sites/set/.