Reno recasts itself as home to tech startups

New York TimesJuly 7, 2014 

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. Reno gained appeal as an outpost of Silicon Valley nearly a decade ago after a Microsoft licensing unit and an Amazon distribution warehouse moved in.

New technology companies are once again arriving in Reno, and older ones are expanding.

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