Ideas ranging from opening a beef slaughterhouse to attracting more investment in renewable energy came from the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth co-sponsored by USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency at Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nevada. Nearly 100 people braved snow and cold on Thursday, January 21, to listen and share their ideas.
Brian Palmer, the vice president of GE Energy in Minden, said Nevada needs to focus on becoming a production-oriented economy that exports to other nations. But to increase the amount of exports from Nevada, the state and federal governments need to invest in education and training for workers, he said.
“Let’s get ahead of what the job requirements are at the technician level, let’s address the engineer level and make sure there’s a pipeline of very well-educated talent,” Palmer said, whose company employs about 1,100 people and did about $600 million in business in 2009.
“The way you get that is through education,” Palmer said. “As much as we need to focus on the short-term, chronic need of jobs, jobs, jobs, you have to be able to work with the other hand on how do you build the five-, 10-, 15-year future.”
Stan Wilmoth, the president of Reno-based Heritage Bank, emphasized that SBA and USDA loan guarantee programs are critically needed at this time, and should be adjusted to allow businesses to refinance their fixed assets and use the proceeds for working capital. Wendell King, a Carson City accountant, said firms will not expand until there is more certainty from federal lawmakers on issues such as the health care and carbon regulations.
Renewable energy investments also played a dominant role in the discussion. Li Han Chan, the director of operations for the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization, said Nevada could serve as an energy producing market for California — with geothermal in the north, solar in the south and wind across the state.
“There is demand and we can supply that demand,” Chan said, “but it will require private, state and federal investment. I think a renewable energy cluster in Nevada will make a difference and will move the needle in the state because it’s able to support knowledge-based jobs in the longer term.”
USDA Rural Development State Director Sarah Adler sets the context for Jobs Forum
FSA State Executive Director Clint Koble shares concluding remarks
Written by Sarah Adler, Rural Development Nevada State Director
To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth”