Reno recasts itself as home to tech startups - The Buffalo News

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Reno recasts itself as home to tech startups

RENO, Nev. — A street newly nicknamed Startup Row intersects this city’s old strip of casinos. And while old-fashioned slot machines are whirring nearby, this stretch of road has become a home for smartphone app makers, cloud computing developers and companies like one that set up shop here recently to build tiny sensors that allow devices to connect to the Internet.

Although Reno stirs images of worn-out casinos, strip clubs and quick divorces, the city is trying to change that reputation and take advantage of its location and low taxes to gain a solid footing in the new economy. Instead of poker payouts, Reno now boasts of e-commerce ventures, an Apple data center and a testing ground for drones. It also hopes to attract a large factory to build batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles

“People believe in this town, and they’re tired of being presented as this joke,” said Abbi Whitaker, a local business owner who helped create a marketing campaign to reshape Reno’s image. Reno exemplifies how cities not far from California — including Boise, Idaho, and Tucson, Ariz. — are trying to poach California’s technology culture to help diversify their economies, marketing themselves as places where taxes are lower and environmental regulations are less onerous.

Reno is among the best situated, less than a four-hour drive from San Francisco and in a state with no corporate or inventory taxes.

New technology companies are coming to Reno, and older ones are expanding.

Most of all, civic boosters are on edge waiting for Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company, to announce the location of its new battery factory that is expected to employ more than 6,000 people.

Reno is not far from one of the few lithium deposits in the country; it is relatively close to Fremont, Calif., where the vehicles will be assembled, and its industrial park has thousands of acres of land for the auto company’s new factory.

“There are solid reasons to be optimistic about Reno,” said Greg Bird, an economist at Moody’s Analytics.

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