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New LVGEA CEO Talks Economic Development

The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance has a new man in charge.

The group, which works to stimulate economic development in Southern Nevada, appointed Jonas Peterson to the position of CEO on July 1.

What steps will he and the LVGEA take to jumpstart economic development in the region?


Before becoming CEO, you were the group's president and chief economic development officer – did this just seem like a natural progression to you?

“Let me tell you, in the world of economic development right now I don’t think there is a better job in the country. Our future for Southern Nevada is extremely bright. Our future in Nevada in terms of economic development is extremely bright.”

How are you different than Tom Skanke, the former CEO of the LVGEA?

“Our task now is transition from startup power to staying power. Take that extreme growth that Tom led and I consider him a personal friend and a mentor. I think he did amazing things I want carry on that legacy build on that momentum”  

What are some of the challenges we face in bringing in new businesses?

“We still have big picture opportunities to continue to advance our education system, continue to create transportation opportunities and connections to other markets, to extend infrastructure and built a product type that employers are looking for as the relocate to Southern Nevada. We’ve got those big picture opportunities, some call them challenges, I really think for our market, we’ve got so much good going for us, so many competitive advantages, that they’re really opportunities because they things we can fix as a community and when we do that we really have a chance to become an economic powerhouse in the Southwest”

What are some of our competitive advantages?

We’ve got the best corporate tax environment in the country, third parties will verify that all the time. We’ve got an abundant work force. You’ve got a rapidly growing population. There is a reason people want to move to Southern Nevada. We’re continuing to be one of the fastest growing in the country. Forty plus million visitors per year. Conferences and trade shows where the customers come to you rather than the other way around, relatively new and improving infrastructure, we’ve still got a ways to go, but we’ve got some strengths in infrastructure. Great positioning in the Southwest where as time goes on we’re really become the crossroads of the Southwest for goods movement and along the Canamex trade corridor. Those are just a few of the competitive advantages we enjoy. 

What more needs to be done to attract new businesses here in Nevada?

We need to continue to advance our work force. If you talk to high-value companies, the companies that the community is telling us they want to see in Southern Nevada, those high-value companies, the single most important factor in where they locate their next business is the presence of a highly skilled labor force, that needs to be top of mind. If we’re successful in advancing our education system, our workforce development pipeline, we will in turn be successful in economic development. At the same time, we need to extend infrastructure to some of our industrial areas to make sure we have the right type of property, buildable sites, in place to meet that incoming demand and we need to continue to push on transportation those are the big picture factors.

What role does the LVGEA have to play in that?

Our goal is to get everyone moving forward around a common economic development strategy. For the region, we call it a comprehensive economic development strategy and we have our own internal plan at LVGEA. Here’s what you want to envision, it's literally hundreds of programs, services and initiatives that are designed to move all those partners, that complete team, forward together in lock step, as we advance our economy. When that happens, that’s the magic of economic development.

There's been a lot of talk about making Las Vegas a home for high tech jobs. But two companies, Digital Royalty and Zirtual, that were both based here and heavily invested in the tech scene, folded within the last couple of months. That's nearly 500 jobs gone. What does that say about the climate here for tech jobs?

Tech is full of starting and stopping. Startups and new operations all the time. It’s a rapidly evolving industry. We continue to be on the national radar screen for startups and activity. You look at what’s going on at Switch, at Zappos, Downtown Project, these are big initiatives that are slowly transforming our community and our tech scene. So there are great things going on. And when you bleed that into the big picture, Nevada by years end is expected to be the fastest jobs producing state in the country.

Are you actively recruiting businesses to move to downtown Las Vegas?

“Yes, so I would say that tech is one of those target industries. There are others. For the next three months, we’re going to be doing outbound recruitment missions. Take a team, including representative from city of Las Vegas, go to other markets and actively work to bring those companies back to our market”

The LVGEA's former CEO, Tom Skanke, was instrumental in helping get Governor Brian Sandoval's business tax plan passed and implemented. Some businesses complained, others were fine. What's your opinion of it?

“I’m a huge fan. I think that what the governor laid out was bold. It was innovative and it has the chance to move our education system forward in a meaningful way. We as a business community need to give it the right amount of time to make sure we see it through. I’m really proud of the roll that LVGEA played in helping push that forward I think that’s what you’ll continue to see from our team.”

How much do you think the increased education spending will help in your goal of bringing new businesses to the area?

It's going to take time. It's not going to be a quick fix. Education and those kinds of improvements, funding and then staffing, then actual change and then seeing the results. I think it's going to take time to see that all fruition and see the results were all hoping for. But in the long run, we need to be making those advancements forward. I think we’re moving in the right direction. The governor’s plan was a big step forward and I’m excited to see it through.

Sticking with things from the 2015 legislative session, do you think the LVGEA got everything it wanted?

I was very pleased with how the results turned out. Now, is there always more to do? Absolutely and we will continue to outline those and push for those objectives as we gear up for the next session. But all in all, when you look at the steps forward in education, possible infrastructure upgrades, continuing with incentive programs, economic development structure that is working, it was a good session for both education and economic development.

What businesses have you brought to town?

At any given point in time, there is about 250 active companies evaluating our market trying to make the relocation decision. There’s some big ones out there right now. One of those that has been popping around in the news is the Farady project in North Las Vegas out at the Apex area. 

Jonas Peterson, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)