Earlier this month, there was a big ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Las Vegas office of SolarCity, which was enticed to open here with a $1.2 million grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).
At about the same time, GOED announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Province of Alberta, Canada, to collaborate on developing unmanned aerial systems, commonly called drones. Tom Wilczek, aerospace and defense industry specialist for GOED, said the state is applying for an FAA site designation to research and develop drones and “place us squarely in the global market as the leader in this field.”
But you never hear about the ones that get away, as reported in this week’s column, available online at The Ely Times and Elko Daily Free Press.
World Surveillance Group Inc. (WSGI) — a company that designs and builds unmanned aerial vehicles, both drones and blimps, the very thing GOED claimed to be targeting — nibbled at the idea of relocating from Florida to Nevada, but never got hooked or reeled in.
Barry Plans, who handles government affairs and is project manager for WSGI, said the firm plans to open a manufacturing facility for one of its line of blimps called Blimp in a Box, which would immediately hire 100 workers.
“It can actually see dirt that has been turned over within the past two weeks, looking for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) … is why the Army wanted it like now,” Plans said.
He said the blimps also could be used for border security, and the company is talking a couple of countries about using them to monitor territorial fishing waters to detect foreign trawlers.
“Some of the things that Nevada has that we liked is the fact that we were there before. We were there flying at Mercury, even though I was stepping over rattlesnake holes …” Plans said.
He called the GOED in May but it took a week to reach anyone. That person said he would send information, but Plans never got anything. He called back and left a message. Then the representative left Plans a message saying he was busy with the Legislature.
Finally, the company set up a conference call with GOED officials on June 14. “Then nothing for two, three, four weeks …” Plans remarked.
No other state showed the lack of interest coming out of Nevada, Plans said.
“We were invited to Texas twice. Not only did they have their entire board at a meeting and we basically described who we were and what we did. They drove us all around the state and flew us to different places to say, ‘Look, these are the communities that we feel you would be best suited for and this is what we are going to do for you.” Houston, for example, has the Johnson Space Center.
Earlier this month, Plans sent an email saying, “WSGI is no longer interested in Nevada.”
Jennifer Cooper, communications director for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, conceded there may have been some missed connections by both parties. “GOED works very hard on every lead, big or small, to strengthen Nevada’s economic base and we will continue to do everything within our reach to create a positive and attractive environment for businesses to expand in Nevada.”
Frankly, this bidding war between the states has never been proven to show a positive return on investment and many economists call it a zero-sum game of corporate redistributionism — giving some taxpayers a tax break, or even cash, at the expense of other taxpayers.