Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And the Chorus Grows...

Are we listening?

Kevin Whitney of TechAmerica, an advocacy group that represents 1,200 high-tech companies across the country, said an hour-long discussion with state Legislative leaders and the governor’s office focused on issues the state faces in luring such companies to move to the state or expand existing businesses.

“Many of those issues centered around a lack of workforce development and skills acquisitions that our companies require to relocate or expand our operations, here in the state of Nevada,” Whitney said. “Oftentimes what you see is these companies come here to do a project and unfortunately have to import their workforce from other states.”

Capgemeni, a tech firm working on the Nevada Business Portal and with the state department of employment and training, found those challenges firsthand, said company executive Kevin Doyle.

“Frankly, in order to start our business here, we needed to bring folks in (from out of state),” he said. “We know that’s not sustainable long-term, but having technology skills is absolutely paramount to our success.”

So tech companies are now begging the powers that be in Carson City for a more educated workforce? But guess what? Brian Sandoval wants to slash programs at Nevada colleges that are doing this! I know, I know, it's the definition of insanity.

How often have you heard me rant about our overdependence on gaming, even as it's becoming increasingly clear that gaming isn't building here any more? But as long as we refuse to provide needed infrastructure, like good PreK-16 schools, new companies and industries will continue bypassing us for greener pastures.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs" has been the mantra of the 2011 Legislative session that began Feb. 7. And while Democratic leaders have their differences with the new Republican governor over the budget, both sides of the aisle have stayed on message that working together and creating jobs is priority No. 1 this session.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the discussion with executives of TechAmerica focused on "what would it take for them to come to Nevada."

In answer to that question, Paul Miner, government affairs manager for General Electric Co., said "first and foremost what you're seeing around this table." He called the bipartisan front "unprecedented."

But Miner also said, "you need a well-educated work force to get to work."

Kevin Doyle, with Paris-based Capgemini, agreed, especially when it comes to specific skills required in the technology fields.

His consulting and technology firm recently located in Nevada, he said, and had to import staff because it could not find trained workers.

Sandoval said he was encouraged by the executives' comments.

"This is one of the reasons I am optimistic of the future of Nevada," he told reporters, who were briefly invited to ask questions after the closed discussions concluded.

Sandoval has proposed deep cuts to both K-12 and Nevada's colleges and universities. Democrats counter the cuts would counterproductive to a state trying to claw its way out of the Great Recession.

The writing is on the wall. Who is reading it? Who is heeding the warning? Who is ready to call out the "no tax" insanity for what it is and call on Nevada to start anew?

We have companies coming into our state, taking our natural resources for their profit, and paying next to nothing in taxes. What is wrong with this picture?

We have the cheapest state government in the country and one of the lowest tax rates anywhere, yet businesses are NOT flocking here in droves. What is wrong with this picture?

Business leaders are now saying they want and need a more highly educated workforce to succeed, but Governor Sandoval stands by his budget to cut to death the very economic lifeline we need now more than ever before. What is wrong with this picture?

And what will we do to make it right?

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