Mayor Bob Crowell told a group of nearly 100 Wednesday that Carson City's economic future hangs not just on new development but putting businesses back into existing buildings that have emptied during the recession.
"It's no secret when you go down Carson Street you see a lot of empty buildings," he said.
Crowell told the crowd at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting that Nevada is in the 23rd month of the recession.
He said sales tax revenues, which make up 40 percent of the city budget, are down dramatically, few if any new homes are being built and commercial construction is also down.
But he called for a positive attitude, saying, "If we act like we're in the toilet, we're going to get flushed."
He said Carson City has many of the things that will bring businesses and people to town including Western Nevada College, excellent health care, parks, good schools and other amenities.
Supervisor Pete Livermore told the group the city is doing a lot to attract businesses and jobs but that it takes time, saying, "Things don't happen as immediately as you think."
"It's a tough market right now. There are a huge amount of closed small businesses on North Carson Street right now."
He said the reason the Board of Supervisors is today considering dropping sewer and water connection fees by 90 percent is to draw some of those new businesses to town.
Supervisor Shelly Aldean said among those efforts are negotiations to bring Kohl's to Carson City. But she too said the economy is making any progress difficult.
"Retailers expanding in this economy are few and far between," she said.
Aldean said city officials are hoping their efforts to make the capital more business friendly will get businesses to choose Carson City when the economy does recover.
One key step, said City Manager Larry Werner, is improving regional cooperation, eliminating competition between the capital, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties.
"We've taken the position we're not going to compete with each other," he said. "We're trying to identify the types of businesses that should go into each community."
The audience asked a range of questions, including the prospects for expanding JAC bus services later into the evening.
Crowell agreed with WNC's Helaine Jesse that it would be a great service to run the buses until 9:30 p.m., saying that would benefit students and workers in the industrial areas.
Steve Brown asked what happened to the decade-old goal of turning Carson Street into a two-lane road instead of a highway.
"Downtown should be a place to go, not a place to go through," he said.
Aldean said with the bypass open to Fairview in just a week or so, the city is scheduled to take ownership of Carson Street from the state in 2010.
"Carson Street will be our very own in July of next year," she said.
Crowell said Rep. Dean Heller has been asked to put in for a $12 million federal grant to make Carson Street much more people and business friendly, with two lanes and parking as it was until the 1960s.