Democratic Gov Steve Sisolak announced a plan to launch ‘Innovation Zones’ in Nevada to bolster the state’s economy by attracting Big Tech giants, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday.
These zones will permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: The measure to further economic development with the ‘alternative form of local government’ has not yet been introduced in the Legislature.
Sisolak pitched the concept in his State of the State address delivered January 19.
The plan would bring in new businesses at the forefront of ‘groundbreaking technologies’ without the use of tax abatements or other publicly funded incentive packages that previously helped Nevada attract companies like Tesla.
Sisolak named Blockchains, LLC as a company that had committed to developing a ‘smart city’ in an area east of Reno after the legislation has passed.
Blockchains is a tech firm owned by cryptocurrency millionaire Jeffrey Berns. The company, in 2018, purchased about 67,000 acres of undeveloped and uninhabited land in Storey County for $170million.
Since 2018, Blockchains and Berns have given heavily to political candidates. In 2019, Berns gave $50,000 to the state Democratic Party.
According to an update on the company’s website, Blockchains is expected to break ground on the Nevada project in 2022.
All our technology development is done with an eye toward future integration with major technology research and development at our land in Innovation Park – and eventually the blockchain-based smart city,’ the update reads.
‘A smart city built from the ground up is a long-term vision that requires extensive planning and resources, a vision that is and always has been a 10- to 15-year project,’ the company said.
However, Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman told the Review-Journal that the Blockchains project is ‘going to have an impact on Storey County, and the jury is still out on whether that will be positive or negative’.
‘We’re going to want to know that Storey County gets the benefit of the bargain,’ Gilman added.
The draft proposal said the traditional local government model is ‘inadequate alone’ to provide the resources to make Nevada a leader in attracting and retaining businesses and fostering economic development in emerging technologies and industries.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development would oversee applications for the zones, which would be limited to companies working in specific business areas including blockchain, autonomous technology, the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, wireless, biometrics and renewable resource technology.
Zone requirements would include applicants owning at least 78 square miles of undeveloped, uninhabited land within a single county but separate from any city, town or tax increment area.
Companies would have at least $250million and plans to invest an additional $1billion in their zones over 10 years.
The zones would initially operate with the oversight of their location counties, but would eventually take over county duties and become independent governmental bodies.
The zones would have three-member supervisor boards with the same powers as county commissioners. The businesses would maintain significant control over board membership.
The governor’s economic development office did not respond to questions about the zones Wednesday.
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