Neighbors details City Center plans, development of downtown Carson

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Steve Neighbors is head of the Nugget casino and oversees the Mae B. Adams Trust and the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation. As the leading proponent of the proposed City Center Project and its Knowledge + Discovery Center, he asked the Nevada Appeal for a forum to address some of the many questions and objections that have been raised. Part 1 was published in Sunday's Nevada Appeal; herewith is the conclusion:

Is the Nugget for sale? When will the sale happen?

There has been a lot of interest in the purchase of the Nugget by outsiders. However, we have chosen to sell in-house to the management team, and finance the sale for them. This is more in-line with Mae Adams' goals. We have been developing that team over the past couple of years, to be comfortable they can continue the operations of the casino given the challenges of their downtown location. They are presently performing well. We have just begun the interaction with the Nevada Gaming Commission in an effort to begin the transferring of some of the ownership of the casino to management. The structure will have a bonus distribution system for all the employees as well. This process will take some time as we walk through the process with the Nevada Gaming Commission. All proceeds that are gained by the sale of the Nugget will go through the Mae B. Adams Trust (MBAT) to the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation (HMAF), all with the approval and oversight of the Nevada Gaming Commission, of course.

What assets does HMAF bring to bear on its mission?

HMAF has the assets to fulfill all its commitments made to date, with additional abilities to continue our mission. We also intend to optimize those assets for even greater impact for the benefit of the community through leverage and synergistic partnerships. For example, a donation of $160,000 was matched by the federal government with an approximate $500,000 grant, all to purchase computers and digital media equipment for the existing library to get started on our vision. We also gave the matching funds to help get the Business Resource and Innovation Center opened and operational. We leveraged a donation to purchase the "Branch Anywhere" library machine for the Boys & Girls Club. We have already spent considerable time and costs to develop and vet the synergistic impacts of the City Center Project, utilizing tried and proven techniques throughout the country. In addition, we are donating the land in the heart of the city that is needed for the project. We have committed to construct a public parking garage adjacent to the project, the cost of which will be approximately $5 million. We have committed to assist with the economic and educational aspects of the project for all citizens, youth and seniors, private citizens and businesses.

Discuss why downtown needs to be saved and how the City Center Project will accomplish that goal.

An appraiser informed me in 2008 that downtown Carson City was a poor investment, repeating the maxim "Location, location, location." He claimed that downtown property values would substantially decrease over the coming years, whereas property along the freeway ramps and in northern Douglas County had already and would continue to increase, all thanks to the freeway bypass construction. What will help stabilize downtown is the traffic and patrons of the Knowledge + Discovery Center (KDC), the entertainment and activities scheduled in the plaza, and the incubated and accelerated businesses brought into the incubation sites downtown. The state-of-the-art auditorium, along with banquet areas in existing businesses - including the Nugget's, which will be remodeled - will allow us to go after the 110 smaller conventions being held elsewhere instead of Carson City. Downtown Carson City has enormous potential, but without an inviting downtown hub, we face the reality of no incoming business and even the whispered possibility that we will someday lose major employers or even the state Capitol.

How would the City Center Project enhance Carson City's economy and career opportunities?

• First, the construction jobs themselves will give an immediate shot in the arm to the local workforce, suppliers, and all the businesses where construction workers spend their money. Our economist predicts between a 6- and 10-fold turn on the money spent in the city. The project should thus pump $200 million-plus into our local economy over the next three years when those turns are considered. This is why we are committed to hiring locally.

• Instead of exporting young workers, the downtown will be attractive to them.

• The KDC will house a beefed-up Business Resource and Incubation Center. Beyond the modest things being done now at the BRIC, additional resources, virtual-meeting capability, state-of-the-art digital tools, conference areas, etc., will all be available free to the public and businesses.

• The KDC will make available the various grants and research projects available from many government entities, including Small Business Innovation Research and STTR Small Business Technology Transfer opportunities. This will bring funding and research opportunities to Carson City.

• Besides traditional funding, the KDC will house at least one venture capital firm, Carson Careers, to finance business needs in Carson City. Carson City Careers will have a $300,000 starting fund. Of that, $100,000 is set aside based on our prior commitment with a digital media company for their relocation in Carson City. The remainder will be allocated to help seed startups in Carson City. The vetting will be by a committee composed of local area businessmen that will meet and host presentations at the KDC.

• KDC will set up and host a Pedal to the Metal program, in which businesses and entrepreneurs can interact with local professionals for specific strategic help.

• We will have 55-plus Valued, a special program to get senior citizens reinvolved in the business community or in ownership. They bring a wealth of experience and their life-honed character.

• HMAF, in partnership with Northern Nevada Development Authority, is setting up a Regional EB-5 center which will bring in foreign equity investment money to Carson City and the surrounding area.

What if the project does not pass?

We have high hopes that the community will work together to make the City Center Project a reality. Something has to be done. The foundation is committed to this community, no matter what. If the community votes against the City Center Project, we will find a secure investment plan to optimize the return and interest earned. We will then figure out how best to leverage that interest for the benefit of the community of Carson City.

Over the course of the next few months, we look forward to better informing our community about the significant value and opportunity the City Center Project brings. We believe Carson City voters, if we can timely communicate the details, will show their support for this project on Election Day.


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