Gov. Brian Sandoval is in South America this week, visiting foreign presidents and making business connections as part of his annual summer trade mission ritual.
His traveling companions include representatives from the university system and Nevada businesses who hope to strike international deals. It’s his ninth such foray, and it’s something he touted last week at the National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island as a priceless opportunity to forge relationships face-to-face — something that hadn’t been done by a Nevada governor for 20 years before he took office.
Steve Hill of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which has organized overseas trips even apart from the ones Sandoval leads, said the return on investment isn’t immediate.
“It takes a long time. The magnitude of that effort is a lot less than if we just, hey, go to California and recruit in California. It just takes a long time on the international side,” he said. “But you know we’ve got agreements now with Israel, I think Italy is signed. The countries are matching dollars with us to relocate their companies here to the state. We’re making some pretty decent progress, but it’s not going to be like ‘Wooh! We got 12,000 jobs as a result of trade missions.’”
The state has focused on cultivating relationships that will help it develop a niche in water technology — ways to cope with drought and thrive in a desert environment. It’s also honed in on countries with active mining industries — including Chile and Peru on this trade mission, and Canada on trips past.
Quarterly reports to the the state economic development board show the modest gains from companies the governor visited. In the latest one, a company from Australia decided to plant a unique type of Australian plum tree in Nye County, and there are a growing number of business exchanges with Poland, where Sandoval visited in 2015.
“People have to judge whether they think it makes sense or not,” Hill said. “But when the state has not done a thing for 25 years, it’s going to take a while to get that pump primed.”
Riley Snyder and Megan Messerly contributed to this report.