Carson City will provide more than $150,000 over two years for Northern Nevada Development Authority to help expand and attract manufacturing here, a boost in city funding.
The program was approved 4-1 at Thursday’s Board of Supervisors meeting in a session that grew testy as Supervisor Jim Shirk, the dissenting voter, questioned Rob Hooper, the development authority’s director, prior to the action. On more than one occasion, Mayor Robert Crowell intervened to keep matters on track.
“We’re going to be professional here,” Crowell said at one point, interjecting himself during an exchange between Shirk and Hooper. Hooper answered many of Shirk’s questions by ending with a brusque “sir.”
Among Shirk’s objections: he had asked for the authority’s budget and just got percentages; he questioned whether 195 jobs Hooper says were brought to the community since 2010 actually materialized; and he would prefer using the increased funding for something else, such as another fair in Carson City. He also talked of working instead with Kris Holt, Nevada Business Connections director, on such a program.
Lori Bagwell, the businesswoman and chairperson of the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee who is running against Supervisor John McKenna for the Ward 3 board seat, also suggested considering Holt or getting others, such as Ray Bacon of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, to weigh in. She questioned using funding from the city contingency fund when there are other city government priorities.
Bill Miles, developer and contractor, countered Holt’s NBC business and manufacturing organization is private rather than a five-county government entity like Hooper’s development authority.
“I support an increase to the NNDA,” Miles said, adding the regional authority helps bring folks into neighboring counties as well, and some of those people live in Carson City because of the school system here.
Carson City’s School District achievements was one of the items Supervisor Karen Abowd said she wants Hooper and his staff to highlight. He replied sometimes Carson City’s good schools get lumped in with the state’s numbers and image, which can be part of what can be countered by marketing with the extra push for the capital city.
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, a commercial real estate broker who works with NNDA, said the program envisioned should have been around for a decade. He said it will help existing manufacturing firms expand as well as lure new ones.
“We have a gap,” Bonkowski said, and a better relationship is needed with firms already here, “rather than ignoring them and just taking their tax dollars.”
Abowd agreed, saying a “synergy of businesses” involving existing industry and outsiders considering relocation is important. She cited Douglas County success, which has had a similar targeted program with NNDA for some time. Crowell, meanwhile, called manufacturing a “key driver,” and McKenna said Nick Marano, the new city manager, believes economic development is important.
Like Bagwell, he decried using contingency funds but added: “I think we need to take care of our manufacturers.”
Hooper said the program would build a database regarding existing manufacturers, provide them information on what incentives and other help is available from government or elsewhere, and market to outside firms while finding common areas among manufacturers in various industries.
In past years, the Carson City amount provided to NNDA was $24,000 annually for its regional efforts. Amounts approved Thursday to target Carson City help specifically were $74,574 for this fiscal year and $75,682 for Fiscal Year 2015-16.