How Team Reid and Team Sandoval combined to get Nevada the drone site designation

Gov. Brian Sandoval was in a hotel room in Southern California when the call came.

He was about to go to his son’s basketball game as the phone rang on Dec. 30. On the other end of the line was Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“Governor,  as you know we’ve been looking at this process (for selecting drone sites.),” Sandoval recalled Foxx saying. “We’ve come down to six. We were very impressed (with Nevada’s application), and we’ve chosen Nevada as one of the sites.”

Sandoval thanked the secretary, told him how “honored” and “humbled” he was by the selection. And then he thought to himself that this award was “the right one” for the state, one that would dramatically affect the state’s economy and, even more so, “change Nevada’s profile,” as the governor put it.

“This was really important to me,” he said. “I wanted to be on the ground floor of something new. All these states have different things. Nevada has gaming and tourism and really hadn’t done something else. Why not us? We have so many military assets and the airspace.”

Foxx made another call that morning to the man who had partnered with Sandoval to secure the designation, the man who done what he does best thousands of miles away: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The public announcement came about an hour after those phone calls, climaxing a remarkable story that is both a testament to the tenacity of Sandoval and his economic development team led by Steve Hill and the influence wielded behind the scenes by Reid, who helped push the designation with high-ranking administration officials.

Despite all the chatter about a Reid-Sandoval matchup in 2016, which I still believe has less than a 50-50 chance of occurring, the two most powerful men in Nevada politics talk regularly and were on the phone a lot coordinating strategy on this project. The Harry Reid-Brian Sandoval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Site? Has a ring to it, eh?

The story of how Nevada secured the facility, obtained through interview with the key players, is one of those rare Nevada-the-underdog-wins tales, one that still rankles losing states such as California.

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