Regional Report: The West, for the Most Part, is Growing

Reno is suddenly as hot as a firecracker.

12-Nevada-Las-VegasNevada, one of the states hit hardest by the Great Recession, has been among the slowest to recover. Las Vegas experienced 14% unemployment at the epicenter of the recession, now down to 5.8%. Jobs are coming back; the Sagebrush State ranked fifth last year in job creation. “We’ve turned the corner on the recession and the recovery,” says Steven Hill, Nevada’s top economic development official. “That’s all in our rear-view mirror right now.”

Expansions of local companies and an influx of tech businesses have fueled Nevada’s recovery. Apple’s decision to open a $1 billion data center in Reno in 2012 gave the state instant cred as a platform for tech operations. And the aforementioned Tesla decision instantly propelled the state into the economic development’s major leagues.

The elevated status comes at a cost to taxpayers; Nevada is the third most aggressive issuer of relocation and expansion incentives in the country, behind only Texas and Florida. Its flexible approach to property tax abatements enticed eBay to open a $412 million data center in the Reno-Sparks corridor last year.

While the lion’s share of economic attention goes to Reno, Las Vegas has made headway, as well. It inked a $1 billion factory development deal early this year with Faraday Future, the other electric car company, and is working hard to overcome what some suggest is a perception problem. “People perhaps don’t realize there is a large city outside the strip with a big labor force,” says Seth Martindale, a managing director with CBRE in Los Angeles.


WYOMINGFor more than a decade, Wyoming—whose energy sector accounts for 40 percent of GDP—well outpaced national economic growth and job-creation activity. Not anymore. The air continues to rush out of the Cowboy State’s oil and gas balloon. Sector employment will bottom out this year at 13,800 jobs, before inching back beginning next year, predicts University of Wyoming economist Anne Alexander.

Mining has a bright spot—trona, which supplies about 90% of the nation’s soda ash and whose production is seen rising through 2019. Federal government employment, a main labor cluster, is also down. Agriculture is a mixed bag: better growing conditions have improved crop product, but increased supply has lowered prices. Many Wyoming residents feel the pain; personal income will drop 2.1 percent this year, estimate state economists.

Casper, the state’s biggest city, has made strong gains in leisure and construction while holding onto its energy-sector workforce. Along with Cheyenne, the state’s second-largest municipality, both metro regions are seeing new businesses and restaurants opening, with more tourists coming for the scenery and recreation, says Alison Felix, economist at the Kansas City Fed.

Regional Report West 2


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