Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year's Wish for Nevada

Last weekend, the RGJ published an "Economic Wishlist for Northern Nevada". And for this piece, they interviewed Food Bank of Northern Nevada CEO Cherie Jamason. Here's what she said.

My first economic wish for Northern Nevada is for more jobs that pay a livable wage. A good job is the fastest way to end hunger. It is impossible for people to live sustainable lives without adequate income to support their families. We work with people every day who have returned to work but are making significantly less income than in prior years. Many are working part-time rather than full-time, or for a significantly decreased salary. It’s not easy to make ends meet on $8 per hour. Even more are still unemployed and in real financial trouble.

I also wish for the skilled work force necessary to excel in these jobs. Education and job training are difficult to obtain when people cannot meet their basic needs. One in four of the children in Nevada do not have access to adequate nutrition. They are likely missing more than just meals. The ability for a child to concentrate and excel in school increases with a safe place to live and enough to eat. Without food and shelter, we are spending valuable resources on education and training programs with little chance of success.

My third wish for our region is an increase in economic mobility and opportunity for all members of our community. Easy to say but much harder to achieve. It takes a change in thinking and there is no better time than now. Daily, an increasing number of people sink into the grip of poverty. We can’t do things exactly as we always have and expect a different result. While meeting the basic needs of our clients at the Food Bank is an outstanding goal, we also want to do whatever we can to work ourselves out of a job. Our work now includes steps that will help our clients create a better life in the long term.

Frankly, I couldn't agree more. But really, you should already know that. After all, how many times have we talked about this here?

And she wasn't the only one talking about it. Here's Washoe County Manager Katy Simon.

Wish #2 — expanded investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in K-16. The school district, Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada, Reno are all doing a great job of working to focus on this, and we need to give them our support, internships, partnerships, etc. We need to support the educators, and provide our STEM students with the facilities and equipment they need to stay at the leading edge.

The only way we will succeed as a state is if we actually invest in our people. And yes, that means we need to better invest in our public schools. And yes, that also means we need to prevent unnecessary suffering that prevents many Nevadans from contributing more into our economy.

This is something that our legislators must remember as they make their way to Carson City later this month. When we invest in our people, we invest in our economic success. When we educate our kids, we're investing in a smarter and stronger workforce that companies will want to employ. When we ensure a living wage, we're ensuring consumers will have more available income to spend. And when we insure our people with good health care, we're also creating jobs.

This is the kind of "big picture thinking" that Nevada needs more of. Hopefully, our state legislators will have this in mind as the nest session is about to begin.

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