Nevada Rebooted

Since Nevada 1.0 has kind of crashed, now is as good a time as any for a reboot. Enter Nevada 2.0, a conference that state leaders hope will help us power up again.

Beginning 8 a.m. Jan. 7, business and education types will meet with political types at UNLV’s Student Union Ballroom to come up with ways to diversify our economy. The get-together is an initiative of the Brookings Mountain West institute, and with the state looking at cutting the budget for education, it couldn’t come at a better time, says Brookings director Robert Lang.

“You shut down the engines of innovation and there aren’t going to be any winners,” Lang says.

The conference, open to the public, includes speakers from Utah, where a $200 million infusion of state money into research universities has paid big dividends; Phoenix, where a public/private research park is boosting the economy; and Dallas, where the city made a concerted, successful effort to turn its airport into a major transportation hub, Lang says. In each case, the cities took an existing strength and parlayed it into a regional success.

One of our regional strengths is UNLV, a research university that has seen little love from the state, he says. “Our state doesn’t invest much in research universities.” Another is McCarran International Airport, which is capable of more than just moving tourists to and from the Strip. It could, for example, be a viable alternative to an already overtaxed Los Angeles International Airport as a cargo hub, he says.

“If you don’t think a big airport can build a city, let people from Dallas or Atlanta come talk to you.” The end result of all the talking will be a set of recommendations for the Legislature to consider when it convenes next month, which means that people charged with balancing the budget might hear something other than the word “cut.”

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