Nevada ED Board Caught in Cross-Fire Between NRA and GTA

Morality critics usually find themselves ignored by Nevada, so the argument over whether Nevada should have provided $600,000 in incentives to help video game company Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO)  relocate to Las Vegas comes as a surprise.

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto (photo – Silvio Sousa Cabral/flickr)

Nevada officials are being forced to respond by the media mostly because of the unfortunate timing of the decision to approve incentives to Take-Two on Dec 14, 2012 – the same day on which the 20 Sandy Hook school kids and six adults were shot dead by a deranged killer.

But at that time, nobody really knew or cared that much about the fact that Nevada was providing incentives to a video game development company whose flagship game is Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and its many versions.

GTA has often been criticized for its excessive violence and alleged propensity to encourage children towards lawless behavior.

Nobody cared, that is, until the NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre gave a press conference on Dec 21, 2012, where he blamed the Sandy Hook incident on violent video games, and specifically named Grand Theft Auto.

That got the LV Sun interested, with an article titled Р“Should tax dollars be spent to draw maker of violent video games to Las Vegas?” The article quotes Secretary of State Ross Miller as claiming that the meeting to approve the Take-Two incentives had already adjourned on Dec 14 by the time they heard of the Sandy Hook shootings.

Even so, the critics are piling on now. Former State Sen. Sheila Leslie said it is hard to believe Nevada would stoop to this level and invest in a business like this. Nevada Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey wants to invite the Take-Two CEO for a discussion on the influence of video game violence on youngsters.

Take-two had no comment, and neither did the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). However, ESA’s position on this issue is perfectly clear – they hauled the State of California all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court last year to strike down a California law regulating the distribution of computer and video games.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, “California’s effort to regulate violent video games is the latest episode in a long series of failed attempts to censor violent entertainment for minors…Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.”

So Nevada has plenty of legal cover if they want to justify their decision to provide incentives for Take-Two.

Besides, it’s a no brainer from a purely economic development point of view. Steve Hill, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, pointed out the positives – 150 new jobs at $18 per hour, and a new company that would be a part of the downtown Las Vegas revitalization.

Not to mention the fact that consumers spent $24.75 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2011 (latest data available).

Lyon County Lands Bill to Create Wilderness Area and 800 Jobs in Nevada

Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller jointly introduced the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act of 2012 in the U.S. Senate. This bill will designate the Wovoka Wilderness area, while allowing the City of Yerington, NV to work with Nevada Copper Corp. (TSX: NCU) to expand its mining operation, resulting in 800 new mining jobs and 500 construction jobs in the area

Nevada Copper Pumpkin Hollow project

Nevada Copper Pumpkin Hollow project (photo –

Senator Reid said it was a bill that was going to meet “the needs of modern day Nevada.” This bill is an amended version of the first bill introduced earlier this year.

The compromise changes included make it a sustainable model that takes into account the concerns of wilderness advocacy groups, ranchers and other residents, and the mining industry.

“My father was a miner. I’ve worked in the mines. I know how important mining has always been for the state of Nevada, and for the first time in a long time Yerington is going to benefit from mining,” added Senator Reid. “I am very happy to be part of this legislation which will create lots of jobs in Lyon County, which are so desperately needed.”

The City of Yerington will partner with Nevada Copper to develop roughly 12,500 acres of land surrounding the Pumpkin Hollow project site, which is estimated to create 800 mining jobs and 500 construction jobs.

Pumpkin Hollow is a high grade IOCG deposit within a porphyry copper rich district with a mineral inventory of over 24 billion pounds of copper. It also happens to be an excellent site for mining based on the ease of permitting and availability of power, rail, roads, labor, etc.

“Lyon County has the highest unemployment rate in the state and this legislation will bring more than 800 jobs to the area. Mining is a critical component of Nevada’s economy and we are fortunate to have resources in our own backyard for economic development,” said Senator Dean Heller.

The proposed Wovoka wilderness area is approximately 48,000 acres and withdraws from mining and development additional land with sensitive cultural resources. Wovoka has invaluable prehistoric cultural and contains landscapes and wildlife habitat that have historically been a huge attraction for hunters, outdoors enthusiasts, and explorers.

Crafting the bill required an endless series of meetings, discussions, and site visits with and between Lyon County officials, the City of Yerington, Nevada Copper, wilderness groups, and the local residents.

“We are very pleased that this revised bill has now been introduced and can be acted upon at any time. There are several critical bills being considered in the lame duck session of Congress, and high priority actions like this are often combined for passage before Congress adjourns,” said Timothy M. Dyhr, vice president, Environment and External Relations, Nevada Copper.

Read more about the Lyon County Lands Bill – S.3701

Vegas, Venture for America Get $1M from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Non-profit Venture for America (VFA), which recruits bright graduates (VFA Fellows) to work and learn at emerging start-ups and early-stage companies, is about to get a million dollars from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Venture for America

Venture for America (Photo –

The money will be used by VFA to fund the recruitment and training required for 100 of its Fellows, who will then be sent to Las Vegas, Nevada over the next five years.

Hsieh is already spending about $350 million in an effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas through investments in startups and community programs.

VFA, which was founded in 2011, already has a total of around 40 Fellows in five cities, including seven Fellows in place in Hsieh’s Downtown Project in Las Vegas, which aims to create the most “community focused city” in the world.

The $350 million Downtown Project includes $100 million in real estate, $100 million in residential development, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education, and $50 million in tech startups through the VegasTech Fund.

In addition to this, Hsieh has relocated the Zappos headquarters from its original location in Henderson, NV to the site of the former City Hall building in Vegas. This relocation will add about 1,200 jobs to the downtown area. Last month, video game company Take-Two Interactive announced the opening of a branch in downtown Vegas that will create another 150 jobs.

Venture for America is modeled after Teach for America, and aims to provide a path for entrepreneurship to college grads who want to learn how to build companies and create jobs. Each VFA Fellow is sent to a start-up or early-stage company for two years. VFA has sent its Fellows to five cities (Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati and Las Vegas) and will be expanding to Baltimore.

Andrew Chatham, a Cornell University graduate who was sent this year as a VFA Fellow to work on the Downtown Project in Las Vegas, Nevada, says that he wants to “build the skills and connections that will allow me to build my own business in the near future.” He adds that he would like to be in a position to hire a VFA Fellow himself within 5-7 years.

In their own words, “Venture for America’s purpose is job generation – our immediate goal is to generate 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025.”

Take-Two To Relocate Testing Studio from California to Vegas

New York, NY-based Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) announced that its 2K publishing label is working on a deal to relocate the 2K West QA Testing studio from Northridge, California to downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.

Take-Two Interactive

Photo – Take-Two Interactive

Take-Two, which is a leading developer and publisher of video games, is reportedly planning to open a 24,700 square foot office in Las Vegas, with the relocation creating 150 new jobs in Vegas with a median wage of $18 per hour.

“2K is continually evaluating its expanding needs for future growth,” said David Ismailer, chief operating officer for 2K. “As part of that evaluation, 2K has been considering options for its 2K West QA Testing studio and has chosen to relocate our facility to Las Vegas, Nevada. This move will allow 2K to operate a significantly larger and more effective QA facility as we continue to grow our business across all divisions.”

The move is expected to be completed by early 2013, with Take-Two already having secured incentives for the deal from both the City of Las Vegas and the state. The Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency has offered $600,000 in incentives to Take-Two.

“To have a company the caliber of Take-Two choose to locate in downtown Las Vegas speaks volumes about the opportunities that exist in this area for new businesses,” said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman. “We have a skilled and talented workforce in Las Vegas that is ideal for companies like Take-Two. I am so thrilled that they will be a part of the downtown community, and I know that their presence will attract other high-tech firms to Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas Councilman, Bob Coffin, who represents this area of Ward 3, added, “Take-Two and its talented employees will add to the synergy that is happening downtown. We are so fortunate that, after looking at locations around the valley, Take-Two selected downtown Las Vegas. They will be a welcome addition to our community.”

Take-two is also applying for Catalyst Funds from the state. Nevada’s $10 million Catalyst Fund incentivizes the expansion or relocation of businesses that will quickly result in the creation of high-quality, primary jobs in Nevada.

The business that wants to relocate has to apply to the local government first, and then the local government files its own application to the recently opened Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).

“Attracting a company of this stature is a very important step for southern Nevada, and we congratulate the city in helping to make this exciting opportunity a reality,” said GOED director Steve Hill. “Today’s announcement is the result of a strong partnership between the city and GOED in strengthening economic development in the state. We very much appreciate Take-Two’s commitment to Nevada and look forward to working with them to complete the Catalyst Fund and abatement process.”

GSA Leverages 9,600 Federal Buildings for Testing Energy Saving Technologies

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) released reports for two technologies to be added to their Green Proving Ground (GPG) program, under which they test technologies that reduce energy use in federal buildings.

GSA Green Proving Ground program

GSA Green Proving Ground program (Photo –

The GPG program aims to drive innovation in environmental performance in federal buildings and help lead market transformation through deployment of new technologies.

GSA owns and leases 9,600 buildings across the country and has the real estate portfolio needed to broadly test and install these technologies.

The two reports include a Responsive Lighting study and a Plug Load Control study.

The Responsive Lighting study evaluated the performance of new workstation-specific lighting systems. The study was conducted at seven sites in five federal buildings in California and Nevada that represented a diverse set of agencies, occupancy patterns, work styles, and lighting.

Results showed energy savings that ranged from approximately 27 to 63 percent over baseline conditions depending on the work space’s normal use. Lighting accounts for 39 percent of electricity costs in office buildings.

The 63 percent energy savings figure may sound stunning, but it was for a call center at the Roybal Federal Building that is illuminated 18 hours a day, seven days a week. In the call center, payback was less than seven years.

“This innovative program is another example of GSA leading the way for the federal government,” said Dorothy Robyn, Commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service. “By testing the effectiveness of these technologies, GSA is finding new ways that federal buildings across the nation can save both energy and taxpayer dollars.”

As for the plug load study, GSA assessed the effectiveness of advanced power strips (APS) in managing plug load energy consumption in eight of its buildings. Plug loads account for roughly 25% of total electricity consumed within office buildings.

Results underscored the effectiveness of schedule-based functionality, with plug loads at workstations reduced by 26 percent, even though advanced computer power management was already in place. Plug loads were reduced by nearly 50 percent in printer rooms and kitchens.

GSA also announced that 12 new technologies have been selected for evaluation as part of GSA’s Green Proving Ground this year. The FY2012 technology assessments are under five categories РBuilding Envelope; HVAC/Energy Management; Lighting; On-site Power Generation; and Water.

The GPG program is currently evaluating 16 technologies from a pool of approximately 140 projects across GSA’s national real estate portfolio. Many of the technologies are being installed as part of building modernization projects, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

CEI Publishes Study for Abolishing EDA

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative non-profit public policy think tank based in Washington D.C., has come out with an in-depth study titled “The Case for Abolishing the Economic Development Administration.”

CEI study on EDA - UNLV tech park

CEI study on EDA – UNLV tech park (Photo –

Much of the 18-page study is devoted to outlining cases which the EDA will admittedly find hard to explain.

For example, it highlights a $2 million grant to Visalia, California which then used the funds to provide incentives for a medical supplies manufacturer to relocate a warehouse from Brisbane, California.

Another example that is highlighted is the $2 million UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park project in Nevada, which got grants from the EDA in 2008. They ran out of funds in 2009 and the site is now empty.

But there’s nothing much new in all this, and such cases have been discussed quite often by others such as Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) who has taken quite a few shots at eliminating the EDA.

Secondly, the study’s author David Bier proposes no alternative mechanism for providing incentives, loans and grants for projects that really would help add wealth and jobs to the community. They just want to eliminate the EDA and be done with it. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

One thing that is interesting in the study is the claim that the way the EDA measures the success of a funded project is flawed. Bier says that instead of counting the number of jobs created, they should look at the value the project brings to the community. Bier says that profitability and not job creation should be the test for a successful project.

He adds that the size of a project and the matching public and private funds it attracts is actually harmful to the community. When they get EDA funding for huge projects like stadiums or convention centers, communities raise the matching funds by hiking taxes.

If you agree with Bier, economic development would be akin to venture capital funding made available only to projects which can guarantee profitability, regardless of the number of jobs created (or not).

The Case for Abolishing the Economic Development Administration – Download (pdf)

FHL Bank Awards $1M ED Grants in Three States

The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco announced that it has awarded $1 million in grants for economic development and housing in California, Arizona and Nevada.

FHL Bank

Photo – FHL Bank

The million dollars in grants are being awarded to non-profits in the three states under the bank’s Access to Housing and Economic Assistance for Development (AHEAD) program.

The community development projects and programs were chosen for these grants based on whether they will:-

-         create or preserve jobs;

-         facilitate public or private infrastructure projects; or

-         produce housing, social services, or other benefits for low to moderate income households.

The bank reviewed 184 applications requesting more than $8 million in AHEAD funding before selecting 30 grant winners. The grants will actually be distributed to the winners through FHL Bank’s local member financial institutions.

For example, Open Table, Inc. in Phoenix is getting a $30,000 grant via the Western Alliance Bank. Open Table organizes volunteer faith congregation teams, known as a “Table,” that meet regularly for a year with individuals and families in poverty. The volunteers help participants develop and implement personal and family economic plans that build financial stability.

The $30,000 grant will enable Open Table’s part-time staff to develop and print training materials and produce a promotional video designed to reach out to and invite the faith community to launch more Tables.

Another recipient is CAMEO (California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity), which is getting $35,000 through First Republic Bank. CAMEO wants to run a pilot program where its microlenders will be selected to participate in a pilot program in a test of three web-based platforms designed to significantly increase microlending in California.

You can see the full list of this year’s 30 grant winners and what they intend to do here. Since the program began in 2004, FHL Bank has awarded more than $5 million in AHEAD funds to support 192 projects and programs in California, Arizona and Nevada.

“The AHEAD Program allows us to strengthen relationships between bank members and nonprofit groups that have special expertise in economic and community development,” said Stephen P. Traynor, senior vice president, Financial Services and Community Investment at FHL Bank. “We are pleased that our grants will help get these projects off the ground.”

Development Board in Nevada Endorses Apple Deal

An economic development board in the region of Nevada has officially endorsed an $89 million dollar deal in which the state will attempt to lure Apple to the region. The economic development board is offering a myriad of tax breaks to Apple as well. The Governor of Nevada whose name is Brian Sandoval states that the deal will be beneficial to Apple as more interest is generated for many of the small businesses in the region. A brand new state law was officially approved which gave the economic development authority the right to negotiate with other companies.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development elaborates on how Apple would not have been in the region if the state law was not officially approved. Apple will create a data center in which there will be many data centers in the compound. 35 full time jobs will be created that pay approximately $25 dollars an hour. 200 contract workers will also be employed with the company. A business center will also be constructed in a worn out region in Reno. Over the next decade, nearly $340 million dollars in economic activity will be generated from the projects. Tax abatements will also be shared between Washoe County and the region of Reno.

Apple will receive an 85 percent tax break on the property that is constructed. The region of Reno also pledged nearly 75 percent in sales tax to assist with the local business center. Given the tax breaks that will be received, Apple plans to invest nearly $1 billion dollars in Reno over the next 10 years. The agreement was officially cast in stone as the company met specific requirements to officially qualify for the abatements.

Many of the board members endorsed the Apple deal but many were also worried about the power that was given to the Executive Director.

Read More

How Apple Won a $1 Billion Data Center in Nevada

Late last month, Apple Inc. confirmed that Nevada had won the site selection battle for a $1 billion data center in Washoe County just outside Reno and a business office in downtown Reno.

Apple Inc.

Apple Inc. (Photo credit – via flickr)

Actually, turns out it was sort of the other way round, with Apple executives spending months with state and local officials trying to win as much in incentives as possible.

At the end of the day, Apple is the clear winner in strictly material terms. Apple will get an 85 percent abatement on the personal property tax on equipment purchased and will only pay 0.5 percent sales tax instead of 7.5 percent.

The project is forecasted to generate $105 million in tax revenues over 10 years, of which the state will get only $16 million. The Washoe County Commission agreed to an $89 million tax abatement deal.

It was a convoluted but ingenious loophole that allowed Apple to skate free of most of its sales tax burden. The state is allowed to waive all except 2 percent of its sales tax for equipment purchase. Two percent of a billion dollars worth of servers is still a lot, so Apple pushed harder.

As a solution, they were told to open an office in the special tourism improvement district in downtown Reno to receive the servers, which meant a 75 percent reimbursement of the two percent sales tax that was still owed. The final result – 0.5 percent sales tax instead of 7.5 percent.

Apple Inc. will hire about 40 employees at the data center and up to 200 independent contractors. A total of 329 direct and indirect jobs will be created and the construction will add a one-time economic impact of $103 million. Apple has agreed to state audits to ensure it keeps its commitments regarding wages and capital investment.

“Reno has been working to diversify its economic base,” said Reno Mayor Bob Cashell. “This is a project in which we can all work together for the good of the whole. Apple will create jobs and brings millions of dollars to our community which will help everyone.”

The main benefit is the huge push Apple just gave to the Reno Technology Park and Nevada’s new economic development strategy focused around seven industry clusters ‚Äì one of which is Business IT ecosystems.

“When a company like Apple chooses to locate in Nevada, that causes other major companies to take a second look at the state, and I think that there will be significant interest on the part of others because this deal took place,” said Steve Hill, executive director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

$48,000 Dollar Grant To Be Used For Buddy Bison Environmental Program

The NPT (National Park Trust) has announced that a $48,000 dollar grant from First Solar will be utilized for a variety of environmental programs in the state of Nevada and California.

The educational program is called “Where’s Buddy Bison Been?” and it will be stretched across four particular schools near power plants that belong to First Solar.

The environmental program has been in production for nearly 3 years and the Department of Interior and the First Lady Michelle Obama have recognized and supported the program.

The main goals of the program include:

  1. Cultivating many of the park stewards
  2. Promoting Healthy Living while encouraging outdoor play and an increase in activity

There are now approximately 30 schools which participate in the environmental program. The Board Chair of the NPT whose name is Bill Brownell elaborates on how he welcomes First Solar as they work hard to assist students through Kindergarten & 8th grade so that they can learn about the history of parks and learn about various means of preserving the natural parks.

The Bison program is being launched in the fall and will educate students on parks such as:

  1. Joshua Tree National Park
  2. Mojave National Preserve
  3. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

The First Solar Director whose name is Laura Abram states that she is proud to support the NPT as they properly educate children on the importance of sustainability in the community. Director Abram also elaborates on how the Bison program is an important aspect of the community as it further develops the understanding of how renewable energy leads to a sustainable world. First Solar supports the development of many other projects such as the AV Solar Ranch and the Stateline solar project. Educational resources will also be provided so that students understand sustainability.

Overall, the grant is going to further advance an important sustainable program.

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