Mike Kazmierski has posted a remarkable track record since he took the reins as president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada in late 2011.
He has led a team of 14 economic development professionals who have assisted in the attraction of more than 120 new companies and the local expansion of 25 more companies — decisions that brought more than 10,000 new jobs to the region.
And those numbers don’t include the Tesla gigafactory, perhaps the most sought economic development prize in the nation. The gigafactory now under construction will bring another 6,500 jobs.
Mike previously managed the Regional Economic Development Corporation of Colorado Springs. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army and served as garrison commander of Fort Carson, Colorado, when it was recognized as the best of the 270 installations in the Army.
A Wisconsin native, he earned a bachelors degree in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), a masters degree in business administration, and a masters degree in military arts & science.
He answers our questions:
I enjoyed an exciting military career and was looking to do something that was challenging and another form of service. I see the military as service to the country and economic development as service to the community. I was always interested in business and economic development. I took many economic development classes in college and have an MBA. In fact in my final military job at Fort Carson as the garrison commander (city manager), I ran the installation as a business and we received national recognition for our success.
In the military you learn to focus on the important issues and try to avoid drama or distractions that can pull you off the path to success. Additionally, if you are not strategic in your approach you will ultimately fail. Looking ahead to the long-term goals then developing strategies and metrics to get there, is key to getting things done. It is no different in economic development. Additionally, the military is very reflective on how things went and why. This approach forces the organization to work on continuously improve. It also encourages benchmarking, how others may be doing it better, and avoids the complacency that may come with near-term success. The question is always, how do we do this better and how to we adjust to insure success in the future?
Technology has impacted on speed and research but not on the basics of sales. Sending someone an e-mail is nice but it’s the relationship that closes the deals.
What I am most proud of is the success we have had in assisting in the development of our entrepreneurial ecosystem. I am also very proud to be a part of the recent WC-1 initiative to save our schools. However, the Tesla project is clearly the deal of a lifetime. While the state did the vast majority of the negotiations and the strengths of our region helped us win out over other great communities, it was the initial efforts by EDAWN to get them here that we are proud quite of. Tesla was very specific on their guidance to the final five states: Show us your best site – just one. As you would expect, the our state leadership felt that with the size of the project the business park near Las Vegas (and its larger workforce) would be their best site, so that is where Tesla was scheduled to go. We knew we would not have a chance if they did not visit here, so we asked the state if we could offer Tesla a private plane to fly them first to Reno and then to Las Vegas. Tesla agreed and we coordinated with the Airport Authority to get the plane and to see if we could get them to help us pay for the plane. As Tahoe Reno Industrial Center was one of the sites we were planning to show them, they were also contacted to see if they would help with the cost of the plane and a private plane was sent to Santa Clara to pick the Tesla team up. Tesla ultimately decided they would just visit one site in each state as planned, but promised us they would visit us after the other site visits and they headed off to Las Vegas. They visited us two weeks later and the rest is history.
In this day and age you never get away from it all, so I like short trips where I can stay connected but not engaged. A good round of golf is another way I use to relax.