Monday, July 16, 2012

What I Mean by "Penny Wise, Pound Foolish"

Congratulations, Nevada. We rank at the bottom of yet another list (that we shouldn't be at the bottom of). This time, Ball State University gave us a "D" in logistics. And surprise, surprise, the reason why is our lack of proper public infrastructure.

Jim New, TMCC’s dean of applied industrial technology, said, “Obviously the most important thing is to have the workforce in place. We regularly hear that we just don’t have the entry level workforce in the community to support the needs of the industries that want to move here. Just recently, I heard this from a company in the food manufacturers industry.”

At least Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) and UNR have been developing programs to educate future logistics industry workers (although UNR's program is now on the chopping block, so progress there may not last long). And while that's a start, we clearly need more. We need more education, and we need better transportation infrastructure.

New said, “Whenever you look at any system, there’s always room for improvement and given the impact of the recession on the state, we’ve certainly slowed down on infrastructure upgrades but I don’t think we’ve truly lost ground like the report represented it.

“We’ve probably held steady and I would hope that as the economy recovers, we turn to improving the infrastructure, which increases jobs and improves infrastructure for all industries. We need to be able to attract more air service to the community and that in turn will attract more support business. And we need a road system that can handle increased traffic and we need support for the rail system.”

Actually, we have lost ground. Contrary to what the folks interviewed by the RGJ want to admit, the state overall doesn't have enough of the infrastructure necessary to become a complete logistics powerhouse. Again, Northern Nevada hasn't felt it quite as much. They can thank the late Bill Raggio for that.

But come here to Southern Nevada, and it's painfully obvious that we've fallen far behind. Our roads are inadequate, and so are our educational offerings. And this brings us back to what we discussed in January.

What makes this even worse is that over many years and many legislative sessions, "the powers that be" in this state have mostly looked the other way despite all the growing evidence pointing to these serious problems. "The Great 2000s Real Estate Bubble" was always doomed to burst, but hardly anyone in Carson City wanted to talk about how to get past it until it was too late. Of course, they probably didn't want to talk about it because the bulk of the state's budget was built upon the bubble, and that everything from fire stations in Tonopah to community centers in Eureka to freeway projects in and around Reno depended on tourist dollars from the Las Vegas Strip. And even as the state had been able to fund some public infrastructure in Central and Northern Nevada thanks to "bubble" money from the last decade, Clark County still lacks sufficient higher ed opportunities at UNLV, sufficient health care, and plenty other areas of infrastructure that are critical to a successful community. Strangely enough, money from the primary economic engine of Nevada (Clark County) hasn't been used to properly maintain that engine. And because that engine has been neglected, the entire vehicle (Nevada) is in trouble.

And this brings us back to our #1 problem. As long as we fail to invest in our infrastructure, we can't really fix our economic woes. Even though Northern Nevada has gotten by with a little more "help from friends", Southern Nevada has been bled to dry because our state's "leaders" have refused to let us break free from our overdependence on tourism and artificial "growth".

But as long as we continue to starve public education, shortchange transportation, and fail to invest in the rest of our public infrastructure, we'll never have the economy we need for future survival. It's bad enough that the future of UNR's logistics program is endangered while TNCC must beg for the private sector to bail out its program. It's even worse that we have nothing of this sort in Clark County. And if we don't fix this soon, we'll all suffer the consequences. And that won't be pretty.

No comments:

Post a Comment