Where will Carson City's economic future go?

With only about one-fourth of Carson City's buildable land still empty,

a cross-section of local leaders have set their minds toward coming up with the best way to develop that land.

City, school, building, business and utility officials started meeting last month to establish an economic strategic plan for the city's future. Upward of 20 people have committed to meeting frequently to draft a formal economic vision for Carson City.

"The idea behind it is what do we want to be as a community as we grow up," said Larry Osborne, executive vice president of the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and the Builders Association of Western Nevada are considering giving money to allow the city to hire a consulting firm to come up with recommendations on how to best develop and possibly even redevelop Carson City.

The Carson City Board of Supervisors on Thursday will consider submitting an application asking for a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant for the strategic planning process. The city would have to compete with 27 rural Nevada counties and cities to win a block grant, but Carson City has had success in getting past CDBG requests funded, said Liz Teixeira, an administrative assistant at City Hall.

Carson City has community plans in place for land use, housing, transportation and parks. Economic development is the fifth component in planning for the future, said Walt Sullivan, Carson City's community development director.

"We have the first four done," Sullivan said. "This is the final part of the puzzle. We know where things are going and how to get there. But who do we want to recruit?"

The private-public committee, headed by Carson City Manager John Berkich, will wrestle with how to develop Carson City's dwindling empty land. Should it be industrial? retail? office? residential?

"We have a finite amount of land for development," Osborne said. "What is the best use we can put this land to? How do we want to assure the highest and best use of land?"

Local builder Tom Metcalf, president of the Builders Association of Western Nevada, wants economic strategic planning to involve redevelopment of existing structures along with land still strewn with sagebrush.

"Downtown is the only redevelopment area (plus a newly added area across from Fuji Park )," Metcalf said. "Some cities have four or five redevelopment areas. Maybe Carson needs more redevelopment areas."

The builders' association also wonders if the city should have different rules and regulations for different sections of town such as the Highway 50 corridor or the south and north corridors of Carson Street.

"What we're looking for is a commonality of public and private cooperation, for one thing," Metcalf said.

Economic development doesn't stop with building buildings and recruiting businesses, in the eyes of Carson City School District Superintendent Jim Parry.

"If I could pick one thing to work on, I'd like to make sure kids aren't alone early in the morning and after school." said Parry, whose schools have 8,400 students. "I want to be part of a focused plan with real deliverables that are doable."

Sullivan's block grant application uses fairly broad language since the committee has not established a plan. He figures the consultant hired, possibly the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., would provide an inventory of local economic conditions and types of businesses and industries operating in Carson City.

The consultant would also make recommendations on how to strengthen existing businesses, determine the type of businesses to recruit and set goals and objectives for Carson City's economic development and diversification.

Community Development Block Grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are designed to improve low- and moderate-income areas.

The grant deadline will arrive before the committee likely finishes work. "The committee is going a little slow for me," Sullivan said.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, wonders what success this economic strategic planning will bring.

"I don't know if this is the vehicle," Bacon said. "Local involvement will depend on a real commitment to the process. We don't do as good a job as we could to deal with the companies that are here.

"What they've got to do, from our standpoint, they've got to get consistency with rules and regulations. People get different answers at different places. If this is done right, it's something Carson City needs to do."

Economic strategic planning could be crucial for Carson City.

"I think it's extremely important," Osborne said. "Otherwise we just sit back doing whatever we're doing, but is that what we really need? We want to focus our efforts collectively and make sure we are working together to see what the city can become."


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