Riding the tech wave: Tahoe’s quality of life draws creative types | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Riding the tech wave: Tahoe’s quality of life draws creative types

Susan Wood

Companies like OptiComp of Round Hill could be part of a new wave of high-tech companies developing in Northern Nevada – at least that is what regional economic development officials are hoping.

The engineering firm plans to hire 13 engineers in the next seven months to complement the 27 employees already researching laser technology and making equipment for high-tech companies. Within the last week, three Boeing representatives had visited the building in Lakeland Village.

Boeing is asking for a high-end fiber optic system. It’s one of several contracts starting to pour in to the 20-year-old company.

The company has been dedicated to creating more speed in broadband networks – in particular in military operations, according to OptiComp President Peter Guilfoyle.

And the pay is good for a computer engineer, at least compared to most Tahoe jobs. The majority of OptiComp’s engineers start at approximately $80,000 a year.

And they are coming from all over the world – Guilfoyle estimates almost half are from foreign countries. He’s convinced many Americans are shying away from engineering schools.

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Ketan Patel, a 27-year-old engineer who says he likes the winters, provided a quick tour of a room filled with Dell computers.

Guilfoyle believes in more than investment of his people. He estimates he installed about $8 million worth of hardware at the site. Computer technology evolves so fast, some of the instrumentation may be close to being out of date, so Guilfoyle dumps 15 percent of his profit in his equipment budget.

In Nevada, high-tech companies are springing up in what may appear to be unlikely places. Amazon.com moved into Fernley and south Reno lured the PC Doctor.

“New corporations are coming to the state on a regular basis,” said Melissa Subbotin, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.

The growth in tech jobs doesn’t seem to be reserved to the Silver State.

“We’re seeing the industry turn around,” said David Lyons, labor analyst for the California Employment Development. He’s citing the growing tech segment that has emerged in Placer, Nevada and the West Slope of El Dorado County – outside the better known reaches of the Silicon Valley in the south end of the Bay Area.

In South Lake Tahoe, city Economic Development Coordinator Camden Collins believes Tahoe is well-suited for technology jobs. To Collins, they provide a low impact to the environment and nurture an entrepreneurial culture in Tahoe.

“There is a fairly large demographic group, between 45 and 65, with both the experience and the assets to launch businesses. Many times they are at a point where they want more freedom than traditional employment, even though starting a business means working longer days,” she said.

That’s the small, start-up price for paradise.

“Part of the reason creative tech types come here is they’re very concerned about the quality of life,” Economic Development Authority Western Nevada Executive Director Chuck Alvey said of the Northern Nevada growth.

Alvey predicts the smaller, garden-variety shops will be wooed into the region, which includes the lake.