By SAM METZ, AP / report for America
CARSON CITY, Nevada (AP) – The governor of Nevada on Friday unveiled a proposal to allow tech companies to establish jurisdictions with powers similar to those of county governments. He argued that the state must be brave to diversify its economy and defend itself against those who have compared the idea to corporate cities.
“This proposal is an exciting, unprecedented concept that can position Nevada as a global center for advanced technology and innovation while helping to have an immediate positive economic impact and shape the economy of the future,” said Governor Steve Sisolak of his concept idea of the innovation zones. “As we have learned in the past, in an emergency, we have to throw away the tried and tested, discard the” How We Always Do It “manual and move on.”
Under the proposal, companies developing cutting-edge technologies with at least 200 square kilometers of land and willing to invest $ 1.25 billion could set up “innovation zones”. The zones would be administered by a committee responsible for overseeing the zoning. Tax, law enforcement and other government functions on their land. This would override the county’s local regulations.
The governor’s office for economic development would initially appoint three members to manage the zone, including two who must come from the company.
While the legislation doesn’t specifically mention the company, the proposal is aimed at Blockchains LLC, a cryptocurrency company that owns 270 square kilometers of land in rural Storey County. Blockchains LLC hopes to build a smart city 12 miles east of Reno that will include underground data storage bunkers, 15,000 homes, and a research and development park where entrepreneurs could invent applications of blockchain technology.
Blockchain is a digital ledger best known for recording cryptocurrency transactions. Local governments have also used their secure record keeping facilities to document marriage certificates and facilitate overseas voting.
The innovation zone proposal has raised concerns about the transfer of excessive amounts of energy to technology companies. However, Jeffrey Berns, CEO of Blockchains, insists that the company’s technology has the potential to empower people to control their digital footprint.
“We’re trying to build a place where you have power instead of business,” he told The Associated Press in early February.
A study commissioned by Blockchains into the economic impact of the company’s innovation zone will create jobs, economic activity and revenue from a tax levied on transactions on the blockchain. The blockchain proposal for the study projects will ultimately generate direct production of $ 2.2 billion per year, which is roughly 1.3% of Nevada’s total economic activity.
However, predicting the economic impact of unproven technologies is difficult, especially because many of the potential uses of the company’s general ledger technology have not yet been invented.
Applied analysis Jeremy Aguero, who authored the study, said the projections were based on more than just cryptocurrency transactions and included all actions in the database of blockchains that were carried out in Nevada or elsewhere. Blockchains, he said, planned to test its cryptocurrency in Nevada in industries like cannabis sales or in the gig economy, and then expand its applications to other sectors and locations. All transaction taxes would be levied by Nevada.
“When we think about the sales estimates achieved, it is not just related to the cryptocurrency. It has to do with all the transactions that add a block to the chain, ”said Aguero.
Blockchain technology is already being used to record financial transactions, store medical records, and coordinate supply chain logistics. Sisolak said the purpose of innovation zones is to attract developers to Nevada to find new ways to use the technology.
“The applications of the technology are limitless. We can’t even imagine what their technology might look like, ”he said.
The applications yet to be invented are a main reason why blockchains would like to set up an innovation zone. The company and proponents of the proposal say small jurisdictions are not the ideal government agency to make decisions about new technology and massive development that, in the case of Storey County, could multiply its population tenfold.
“The traditional forms and functions of local government … alone are not enough to provide the flexibility and resources to help the state become a leader in attracting and maintaining new forms and types of business,” it said in one Bill.
Some locals disagree. Storey County’s Eileen Gay said the development and project approval mechanisms are good for local interests and the environment.
“Oversight is what ensures safe, well-considered and balanced development,” she told the district commissioner at a meeting on February 16. “What’s going to stop this neighbor’s 800-pound gorilla from swallowing our little neighborhood?”
Developers may find new ways to use the digital ledger, but at a Storey County Commission meeting in August 2020, Blockchains lobbyist Matthew Digesti described the company’s proposal as something local governments routinely run into: one “High-tech business park integrated into a planned master living area community.”
Sisolak said he understood the innovation zones were unconventional, but said the pandemic had proven Nevada must be bold to diversify its tourism-driven economy. He said the government and the private sector need to work together to bring about the recovery of the economy.
“What we did didn’t work,” he said. “We can hardly wait for the economic recovery to come to us. We must accelerate and pursue innovative ways to bring Nevada new and organic economic growth and more jobs. “
Sam Metz is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national service program that lets journalists report undercover issues to local newsrooms.
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