- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada will have nearly 35,000 more residents in the year 2032 than it would have if the state hadn’t landed the Tesla Motors battery factory and another out-of-state business, according to new projections released Wednesday.

State demographer Jeff Hardcastle circulated a draft of his predictions on Sept. 1, but he said news later that month about Tesla’s gigafactory shuffled the numbers and prompted an update. “The potential impacts on the communities of northern Nevada in terms of economic and population changes will be significant,” Hardcastle wrote about Tesla’s move.

Drone maker Ashima Devices’ move from California to Washoe County and an Amazon.com warehouse’s move from Lyon County to Washoe County also shook up the numbers.

Nevada overall is expected to add 528,000 people over the next two decades, for a population of 3.3 million. That’s led by an estimated 328,000-person bump in Clark County and an estimated 147,000-person gain in Washoe County.

But northern Nevada, where the gigafactory will be built, is expected to feel the most direct impact from Tesla.

Hardcastle’s revised predictions for 2032 show Washoe County’s population will be 18,000 people over what it would have been without Tesla, in part because many workers at the Tesla factory are expected to live in the Reno area, where housing is more abundant, and commute to the site in small, rural Storey County.

Lyon County is expected to get a Tesla-related gain of more than 9,000, while Carson City should be up by nearly 5,000 and tiny Storey County’s population should rise by more than 700.

Even Clark County is projected to see a Tesla-related population bump of about 1,600 people in the next two decades. That’s because northern Nevada’s economic activity is likely to trickle down to suppliers based in southern Nevada.

To prepare for the growth, Washoe County is organizing an economic development planning committee that’s set to convene later this month, county Manager John Slaughter said. Their findings will determine how many more police officers, schools, homes and public workers the county will need.

“There really is an excitement in the region,” Slaughter said. “Certainly it’s going to present challenges, but they’re challenges that we can deal with.”

In spite of the Tesla buzz, however, Hardcastle noted that tourism remains the most significant driver in Nevada’s economy, and it likely will be for the next two decades.

“There’s been a huge investment over time in the tourism and gaming side,” he said. “It’s such an established industry, that even as we try to diversify, it’s such a large base for us.”

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