Banking and infrastructure took center stage during this year’s 2018 State of the West symposium, featuring keynotes by Randal K. Quarles of the Federal Reserve, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. The event was hosted by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and the Bill Lane Center for the American West.
Quarles, the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, said the western United States has led other regions in economic growth by a wide margin.
But, he added, "while the good times are typically very good in the West, the bad times are usually pretty bad." Currently, the West is experiencing healthy population growth, and not just in its cities. Unlike in other parts of the country, rural western communities are growing as well.
Quarles stressed the importance of competition in banking and financial services to rural western communities, where "small businesses are key drivers of growth." But these communities are underserved, with about 20 percent fewer banks than in the East, he said.
To help foster competition in rural western communities, Quarles advocated several steps, such as reducing community banks’ capitalization and reporting requirements, and exempting them from the "Volcker rule" which limits speculative investments.
Read Randal K. Quarles’ complete remarks (Federal Reserve)
Sandoval, the outgoing two-term governor of Nevada, engaged in a wide-ranging conversation with Bruce Cain, director of the Bill Lane Center. In 2011, taking office in one of the nation’s most deeply recession-hit states, Sandoval said that one of his top priorities was diversifying Nevada’s economy.
And as Sandoval leaves office, Tesla’s “Gigafactory” is at work making batteries outside of Reno, large new data centers are under construction, and the state has begun to install electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state.
When Cain asked if Nevada’s limited water supplies would be an obstacle to growth, Sandoval said that the state’s “third straw” intake, currently under construction, will ensure continuing water supply from the Colorado River. He also cited tremendous gains in water efficiency made by Las Vegas residents, and its casinos and hotels, as well as the state’s decision to loosen the state’s water rights system in order to promote conservation.
Sandoval also discussed his decision to break ranks with the national Republican party to accept Medicaid expansion, his continuing opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility, his veto of a 50 percent renewable energy portfolio standard, and the state’s relationship with neighboring California.
An audience member asked the governor what advice he’d give to his successor, the Democrat Steve Sisolak. “My advice would be to love your state and to put the people first,” he said, adding, “public service is a gift. There is no other job where you can come to work every day and make a difference in somebody’s life. And if you’re there just to stay in office, shame on you.”