Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy and Leadership

First Committee Member

Christopher Stream

Second Committee Member

Jayce Farmer

Third Committee Member

Jaewon Lim

Fourth Committee Member

David Damore

Number of Pages



This project utilized a mixed methods research design consisting of a case study of Nevada to explain the state’s reliance on company-based government incentives to attract new businesses to the state. Additionally, the project applied a comparative analysis of Brazil’s and Tennessee’s use of company-based government incentives, and a more detailed comparative analysis of Virginia’s people-based government incentive approach to economic development incentives to explore policy alternatives available to decision makers. This project used the historical institutionalism approach to show how policymakers have certain institutionally dominated predispositions impacting policy outcomes leading to a path dependency where rational choice theory’s credit seeking behavior further reinforces the desire to provide company-based incentives over people-based incentives. Additionally, this project discussed how the creative class theory provides an alternative approach to help channel policy preferences toward people-based incentives for policymakers prone to rent seeking corporations pursuing company-based incentives. The concept and definition of workplace is changing. The connectedness of global markets and supply chains combined with advanced technology are disconnecting companies from specific geographic locations giving them an increasing ability to more freely expand or relocate. Business closures, realignments, and work from home protocols associated with the COVID-19 global pandemic have further transformed, if not destroyed, the notion of workplace and corporate commitment to local. The comparative analysis of this project informs policymakers facing this new reality by evaluating whether prospective companies prefer government investments in company-based economic development or investments in people-based economic development. This project used a case study of Tesla’s September 2014 decision to build its first Gigafactory for manufacturing batteries in Sparks, Nevada. The project also compared Amazon’s September 2017 decision to build its HQ2 corporate headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. More specifically, the project highlighted the lessons Nevada and other state’s beginning to establish and implement economic development tools, designed to attract new enterprise to their state, can learn from states more experienced and successful in economic development endeavors. The primary units of analysis for this project were the metro areas of Reno, Nevada; Las Vegas, Nevada; Washington, D.C. Metro Region; and the surrounding areas impacted by the project, and the state. The case study of Nevada offered a unique perspective and contribution to existing literature in urban affairs and public policy, if not a laboratory for study, as a state with a rich tradition of reliance on stable historic rent seeking enterprises suddenly pivoted and realigned state law and institutions to diversifying its economy following the Great Recession. As one of the least diverse states in the Nation, Nevada provides a blank canvas to analyze the evolution of government institutions, public policy, and the effectiveness of incentives designed to attract new diversification. The comparative analysis of Amazon in Virginia provided strong comparative value to understanding policy evolution and the value businesses place on people or company-based economic incentives. Additionally, the Amazon analysis looked at the company’s bifurcated decision to locate in Virginia and New York and how those states used company- and people-based approaches to attract their part of the opportunity. Following a more traditional incrementalism approach where inherently stable institutions of policy subsystems develop over time, Virginia made significant historical investments in people and utilized smaller company-based incentives to attract business. This project utilized content analysis, in-depth semi-structured interviews, and document analysis of legislative records. This study adds to existing literature on company-based and people-based economic development by highlighting the key metrics most likely to attract economic development and what a state needs to do to overcome structural deficiencies within the key metrics to determine how steady and historical investments in people-based economic development impact the need to come to the table with aggressive company-based incentives to attract new economic development. The study also provides guidance for state and local governments creating public policy to diversify their economies and compete at the national level for businesses looking to expand or relocate. In light of the more frequent migration practices of business, it is important for policymakers to understand that the world, especially a post-pandemic world, does not have the same historical necessity to stay in place, meet in place, or manufacture next door; businesses can move and relocate. Policymakers, unaware of this growing reality, will get caught up in a never-ending reshuffling of businesses moving into a state until the government subsidy runs out and then simply relocate to another state chasing the next big subsidy. In light of this new reality, the project highlights the need for policymakers to invest in their people now or pay for it later at a much higher cost in both dollars and lost opportunity.


Creative Class; Economic Development; Historical Institutionalism; People-based; Place-based; State Government


Political Science | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy

File Format


File Size

3800 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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