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Nevada: Betting on Exports and Energy to Offset Record Unemployment

Mary Lou Byrd (Oct/Nov 09)

The Silver State is looking toward the future, hoping that economic stabilization is on the nearby horizon. Certain areas of Nevada's economy, such as exports, have shown some resilience in the face of economic adversity, and state leaders have been busy exploring the energy industry in an effort to diversify the state's economy.

Good news came from exports: Nevada's companies had a record-breaking $1.54 billion in exports in the first quarter of 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That's the seventh consecutive year of increased international export activity. The first quarter exports reflect a 6 percent increase over the same time period for the previous year. Some notable increases were in stone, plaster and cement, up 1,100 percent; aircraft and parts, up 470 percent; base metals, up 213 percent; and nickel and nickel items, up 348 percent.  

Unfortunately, Nevada keeps breaking records in another area as well - its unemployment rate. It has earned the dubious distinction of having the third-largest state unemployment rate in the nation - climbing to 12.5 percent in July 2009 - and signs of stabilization are not yet in the cards. "Nevada is the midst of the longest, deepest recession since World War II, and recent labor market trends show no sign of improvement - particularly unemployment, which has surged at a record pace in recent months," says William Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation (NDETR).

A potential sign of hope has been building during the past few years. The CityCenter, anticipated to open this fall in Las Vegas, is a joint venture between MGM and a subsidiary of Dubai World, a massive 18 million-square-foot multi-use project that is expected to become one of the world's largest urban communities. Aside from a 4,000-room gaming resort, the center will feature non-gaming hotels, residential buildings, and a 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment district. The CityCenter has employed about 8,000 construction workers and is expected to create approximately 10,000 permanent jobs when it opens.

Nevada is also continuing its push for alternative energy production. For the past two years, the governor's office has worked on infrastructure projects and plans for solar, wind and geothermal energy production. The state has invested some of its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in its energy future. In addition, the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 was held at the University of Nevada to explore the development of clean energy and energy efficiency, and job creation for Nevada, as well as the nation.

Another bright area for the state is its agreement with California to extend the California High-Speed Rail corridor from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says, "We will continue to encourage new and innovative partnerships like this one. We believe that the development of regional high-speed passenger rail systems will create jobs, spur economic development, and provide positive environmental benefits for all Americans." While partnering with California on this project, Nevada is also competing for jobs. The Nevada Development Authority has launched an advertising campaign was to entice California businesses to move to southern Nevada.

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