Experts: Diversification Driving Economy In Area

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Diversification continues to drive steady economic growth in the Reno-Sparks area and lure higher-paying jobs to the region, a leading economist said Tuesday.

"Most of the areas in the country could not boast the success you've had the last four or five, six years," said William H. Fruth, one of the keynote speakers at the 14th annual northern Nevada economic conference, "Directions 2004."

"The economy has been growing steadily in both size and in quality and that has not come about by accident," said Fruth, president of the POLICOM Corp., a Florida-based economics research firm.

Fruth, who has evaluated more than 600 local U.S. economies, told KOH Radio after his speech that the diversification away from a gambling-based economy is fueling the local growth.

"The overall earnings per worker has been increasing in the area as a result of the formation of some new high-wage, high-paying companies," Fruth said.

"Roughly over the last four or five years, the growth of quality of the Reno area compares to some of the strongest economies in the country," he said.

"It shows some very good signs that you are diversifying into having multiple contributory businesses in your area."

The Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada co-sponsored the conference at the Reno Hilton.

Chuck Alvey, EDAWN's executive director, said he was delighted to hear Fruth say "we actually are trending with the leading economies of the country.

"Everybody seems to think we are positioned for a very, very good year ahead," Alvey told KRNV-TV.

"You hate to say that and jinx it but I think 2004 should be a very good year for the region," he said.

An EDAWN survey of 66 Reno-Sparks companies in November found as a group they forecast planned expansion resulting in 651 new jobs, 1.1 million in additional square footage and $40 million in new capital investment by 2006.

Tom Cargill, an economics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, also predicted earlier this week that Nevada's employment will continue to grow at a rate faster than the national average.

"There are positive signs for the future of the state. A subtle but sustained diversification away from gaming continues," Cargill said in a guest opinion in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"Nevada is attracting a significant number of households that are at most indifferent to gaming. They want to start small businesses, take advantage of a more friendly business environment and obtain more affordable housing than in their home states," he said.