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New initiatives propel entrepreneurship in Nevada

Doug Erwin
Doug Erwin

New and young businesses create virtually all job growth in America. However, entrepreneurship and startup growth is down. Fortunately, this summer proved to be a landmark time for entrepreneurial development in Nevada as a series of pivotal initiatives to advance entrepreneurship were set in motion. Each alone is a major achievement; together they are an unprecedented development. They should be recognized and appreciated for setting the stage for an exciting future for Nevada entrepreneurs.

The two key legal initiatives were AB77, which passed in the 2023 Legislature and was designed to remove barriers and empower aspiring entrepreneurs, giving increased access to resources and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, and AB75, which reduced the requirements for accredited investors who wish to invest in startups or venture funds, offering opportunity for new investors in the field and increasing the capital available for startups.

It is notable that Nevada made history in July by becoming the first state in the nation to sign “Right to Start” legislation, inspired by the national nonprofit organization of the same name, which champions entrepreneurship as a civic priority. In this case, AB77, known as the Right to Start Act, established a dedicated Office of Entrepreneurship within the Governor's Office of Economic Development. The bill, which generated broad bipartisan support, was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), passed by both houses of the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Joe Lombardo.

As a result, the Office of Entrepreneurship will work with stakeholders and organizations supporting entrepreneurship in Nevada to enhance the skills of entrepreneurs and the business environment in which they operate. It will report annually on key indicators and metrics for new, young companies such as state government contracts obtained, demographic and regional data, and recommendations for improving overall entrepreneurship in the state. 

AB75 will make much-needed access to capital more available to entrepreneurs. This bill was also sponsored by Yeager, passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed by Lombardo. Previously, to be an accredited investor for that purpose, an individual typically had to have a net worth of $1 million, not including a primary residence. That amount may be appropriate for the East and West coasts, but it is excessive for many states including Nevada. The bill, with strong leadership from StartUpNV, democratizes capital by adjusting the amount to make it more suitable for Nevada.

Two key state budget actions also occurred at the 2023 Legislature: Funding for Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony’s Office of Small Business Advocacy for another two years, and $15 million in funding for Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar’s plan to improve SilverFlume, the state’s online business portal. The Office of Small Business Advocacy department had originally been funded with federal American Rescue Plan money during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it is being continued as an ongoing priority with state funds. In contrast to the Office of Entrepreneurship, which will be strategic in its approach to advancing entrepreneurship statewide, the Office of Small Business Advocacy supports small businesses of any age in their interactions with state government.

As noted, the secretary of state’s office received funding to improve SilverFlume, the state’s online business portal, by reducing bureaucratic barriers to starting and managing a business. SilverFlume is a crucial tool for entrepreneurs starting their businesses, and the funds will enhance its offerings and the ease of accessing them.

Additionally, Lombardo in January signed an executive order to reform occupational licensing, directing all Nevada occupational and professional licensing boards to suspend issuing any new regulations, which previously prevented new entries into the various fields. It tackled the need for broad reform of occupational licensing, including requiring that parties show cause for all new occupational licensing requirements — and provide a recommended pathway for facilitating licensure reciprocity, the absence of which can restrict new entries into a field and prevent individuals licensed in one state to operate in another state.

There is also the notable fact that the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance has added, for the first time, a senior vice president for entrepreneurial development. Heather Brown, co-founder of Startup Vegas and recently elected NSHE regent, was recently appointed to that role and now provides a counterpart to my role as senior vice president for entrepreneurial development at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN). She will continue to build on the foundational work done by the City of Las Vegas, UNLV and many others in Clark County. 

Along with that, Nevada’s Small Business Credit Initiative program, launched by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, includes four loan programs and one venture capital program, Battle Born Venture, to increase much-needed capital in the ecosystem. This initiative represents a broader commitment to Nevada's entrepreneurs, as it supports accelerator programs including the Gener8tor and StartUpNV and co-invests with seed funds including the Reno Seed Fund

Last but certainly not least is the important work being done at the Nevada Department of Business and Industry to organize and highlight entrepreneurial support organizations, statewide, to enhance the services they offer collectively. 

Nevada has taken a number of key actions to upgrade our environment for entrepreneurship. We now have a vital new set of tools to make entrepreneurship an even higher priority throughout the state. That’s good not just for entrepreneurs but for all Nevadans, as a 1 percent increase in a state’s entrepreneurial activity correlates to a 2 percent decrease in poverty for the state. It’s time to maximize that opportunity for all.

Doug Erwin is the senior vice president for entrepreneurial development at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. He is also a volunteer ambassador for Right to Start.


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