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Sandoval toutes state’s economic diversification

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval touted the state’s economic diversification in helping it rebound from the Great Recession and outlined a budget to better train and educate the workforce and lure in even more companies.

During his final State of the State address on Jan. 17 in Carson City, Sandoval detailed how one of the diversification projects — electric car manufacturer Tesla — plans to expand its operations at its new gigafactory near Reno and add more jobs.

The jobless rate was 14 percent and a record number of people were out of work six years ago, but that rate dropped to 5.1 percent in December, Sandoval said. Between 2011 and 2016, Nevada added 198,000 jobs, he said.

“The state of our state has dramatically improved, and we’re going stronger every day,” Sandoval said.

“We have closed the books on six straight years of job growth. We have seen job growth every single month since January 2011 to bring it to an all-time high of 1.31 million jobs.”

Sandoval credited a more diverse economy with helping the state add jobs and said many industries are exceeding or nearing pre-recession levels.

Advanced manufacturing facilities and technology companies have been catalysts for new growth and higher-wage industries, but, Sandoval said, without a skilled a workforce, new companies will struggle to find qualified workers.

In submitting his $8.1 billion bi-annual budget — 10 percent larger than his last budget — Sandoval said there’s an increased focus on workforce development, education and infrastructure as well as an increased Medicaid caseload. The budget includes $200 million for a rainy-day fund and repaying the remainder of the $900 million borrowed from the federal government for unemployment benefits.

Workforce development was among the highlights of the budget outlined by Sandoval, maintaining all Nevadans must have access to high-quality employment. By 2025, 60 percent of all jobs in Nevada will require some form of post-secondary degree or other credential. Today, only 30 percent of Nevadans between 25 and 34 have completed some level of post-secondary education, Sandoval said.

Academic programs in community colleges must be closely aligned with the state’s economic development strategy. Sandoval‘s budget includes $21 million to enhance career and technical education programs for community colleges. It adds $10 million in new funding for capacity-building initiatives at each of the state’s post-secondary institutions and the Desert Research Institute.

The budget includes $58 million for new student enrollment at UNLV and University of Nevada, Reno. Two years ago, the budget allocated $27 million for the UNLV Medical School that launches classes this summer. Sandoval proposed another $53 million to sustain the school over the next two years.

Sandoval said Nevada has emerged as an international center for innovation in technology, transportation and autonomous systems and has attracted cutting-edge industries. To build on these successes, Sandoval proposed the construction of a new college of engineering at UNR, an $83 million project of which the state will pay for half.

“This school will develop the best and brightest in engineering science and help to achieve Nevada as a global leader in innovation,” Sandoval said.

The budget also sets asides permanent funding for the Office of Workforce Innovation that adopts training programs. It was created last summer.

Sandoval said Nevada has momentum when it comes to economic development. Since 2011, it has recruited 204 companies that have made $14.5 billion in capital investments and accounted for 15,000 jobs that will grow to 38,000 jobs within five years.

Nevada has added renewable energy projects worth $6.5 billion creating 4,500 new jobs. Switch and Amazon have undergone significant expansion, and the state has added companies such as Apple, eBay, Hyperloop One and Tesla.

In 2014, the state lured the Tesla gigafactory with a $1.3 billion incentive package. It has 1,000 full-time workers and 2,000 construction workers on site with 5 million square feet of the gigafactory built, Sandoval said.

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