Time to Gamble on Nevada’s Future

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.

In a world that is changing quickly, the only strategy

that is guaranteed to fail is not taking [any] risks.”

–Mark Zuckerberg

I like Dr. Len Zessup, the new UNLV president. You get the sense that he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t mind breaking a few eggs to make an omelet.

Speaking to the Nevada Assembly yesterday on the Faraday Future project, the former University of Arizona Dean of Management and Entrepreneurship made reference to legendary Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s theories on “disruptive technology.” An example of such a “turning over the apple cart” phenomena is the way the personal computer displaced the typewriter and forever changed the way we work and communicate.

Might the production of lithium ion batteries and electric automobiles in the Nevada desert do to the internal combustion engine what the computer did to the typewriter? The head honcho at UNLV believes so, and urged Nevada lawmakers to do for Faraday Future what we did for Tesla in Northern Nevada, paving the way for the new automobile manufacturer to come to Southern Nevada.

Such bold decisions are not without risks. But as Facebook founder Zuckerberg said, there’s also a “risk” in not risking at all.

Nevada, after all, is a state founded on risk. According to Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha, Nevada’s very statehood stemmed from a political calculation by Abraham Lincoln in an attempt to ensure that the Silver State’s “riches would help the Union and not the Confederate cause.” Old Abe gambled on the both the political move and the Silver State’s future, enhancing his political power and enabling the Republican president whose portrait adorns the Assembly Chamber to help lead Congress to abolish slavery. Talk about disruptions!

Calling what automakers Tesla and Faraday Future are attempting to do a potential game-changer for “the future of transportation,” Jessup hopes Nevada will go down the path of an advanced technology and manufacturing revolution, just as we once did in the gambling industry.

Bugsy Siegel, Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn are are among the gaming and hospitality visionaries who helped transform the Nevada desert into an international destination and gambling mecca. Nevada’s economy grew and benefitted from the investment of tax dollars made in the Hoover Dam, McCarran Airport, and I-15. Each of these taxpayer-supported infrastructure projects have helped our biggest home-grown industry develop and prosper in Nevada.

But it’s high time to diversify the economy. And with projects like Tesla and Faraday, Nevada is on the verge of doing just that.

Are there risks involved? The answer is yes. But without those risks, there will definitely be fewer rewards.

Governors long before Brian Sandoval urged Nevada to wean itself from its reliance upon gaming and tourism. Sandoval has taken his predecessors warnings seriously and has embarked upon an unparalleled economic development campaign to attract international and national investment to Nevada.

The result is that Nevada is developing a new brand for itself. No longer just a hub for gambling and tourism, Nevada is increasingly being seen as a state worthy of investment from high-tech manufacturing companies both here in the U.S. and from abroad. Game-changer, folks. Why not step up to the plate and take a calculated risk?

For a state that has wanted – and needed – to transform its education system to produce more students desirous of, and prepared for, a future where post-secondary degrees and certificates are a pre-requisite for success, workforce challenges and opportunities like Faraday can change our education culture.

Again, there are risks. I do get that. But Nevada was built on such gambles. Why not bet on our own future, once again?