Governor and Cabinet Members Visit Nevada

The humming of conveyors melded with the whirring of dozens of sewing machines in a mechanical medley at Aramark’s distribution center in Reno early Thursday.

Such activity is not out of the ordinary for the uniform services company’s Reno facility. On this day, however, the number of folks in suits and ties was higher than normal.

Aramark was one of more than 20 companies in Nevada that received visits Thursday from the governor, lieutenant governor and cabinet members as part of separate business tours.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, on hand at Aramark, said the idea behind the visits is simple.

“I want Nevada to be the No. 1 state for business,” Sandoval said. “We can’t do that if my Cabinet members and I don’t go out in the real world. This is part of an effort to see what’s going on in our own back yard, what challenges we need to address and what needs to be done to make us the most business-friendly state in the nation.”

So far, Sandoval said he has visited 150 to 200 businesses since taking office and plans to visit more. The effort is not lost on companies such as Aramark.

“It shows a commitment to growing and supporting business in Nevada,” said Eric Ashlock, senior director for distribution at Aramark. “In the industry, there’s a lot of collaboration with competitors, and we talk to them about Nevada any chance we get. We think anybody considering to do business in Nevada will be well-served to make that commitment.”

Positive word-of-mouth from businesses is considered important for a state still struggling to change perceptions of outsiders who primarily view it as a gambling destination. Image issues — more specifically, misperceptions about the area — were identified recently by global site selection firm Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting as one of the challenges Nevada faces.

In Aramark’s case, Ashlock cited a business-friendly climate combined with an excellent location as key to the company’s decision to place its biggest distribution center in the area. The Reno facility has a footprint of 207,000 square feet and employs 225 people. The Fortune 200 company has about 250,000 employees worldwide.

Relocation and expansion by high-profile companies such as Aramark are a big focus by state policymakers and economic development advocates intent on diversifying and growing Nevada’s economy after the downturn in such sectors as gaming, tourism and construction.

Manufacturing and distribution are especially considered to be areas of opportunity given the state’s central location. Aramark, for example, says that with the exception of Everett, Wash., its products can reach all its main Western markets such as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City within one day from the Reno facility. Northern Nevada also is close to major ports.

“Logistically, it just doesn’t get better than this, so we have a great opportunity (with manufacturing and distribution),” Sandoval said. “That’s going to be one of our clusters.”

The state also got a boost in a recent report by the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. Lack of venture capital and early-stage, angel-level investor funding always has been an issue for the state, but the report ranked Nevada 14th in the nation for attracting private equity investment. According to the report, private equity firms invested more than $3 billion in Nevada-based companies in 2011.

Part of the reason could be the recent focus on green energy combined with the lower costs for doing business in Nevada after the recession, said Michael Skaggs, deputy director of the Nevada Office of Economic Development.

“The investment opportunities in Nevada have become quite well-known,” Skaggs said. “We’re seeing very low pricing, for example, that’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime deal for commercial and residential real estate.”