The main thing is coming to Carson City if City Manager Nick Marano has anything to say about it.
Such a “thing” is called economic development by others, but Marano calls it enlarging the commercial pie by growing existing or luring new manufacturing firms and other businesses, as well as by keeping city government hurdles for startup companies or small firms as reasonable yet safety-oriented as possible. In the retired Marine Corps colonel’s view, a bigger pie means more generous slices are possible for all.
“I used to have a sign on my desk: ‘Keep the main thing the main thing,’” said the man whose final Marine assignment was running Camp Pendleton for the 60,000 military and civilian residents near San Diego.
No doubt the main thing at other times in Marano’s career was something else, given he also served in Mideast combat areas, but here and now he says the main thing is the economic well being and overall safety of people in Nevada’s capital city. And those things are hand-in-glove. “As long as the pie is growing we’re able to expand services,” he said.
To that end, Marano talked of two contracts and their importance to the economy. One is with Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) to help existing industry while luring new manufacturers, the other with Charles Abbott Associates, Inc., to handle local building code services.
The city manager also said the Tesla Motors battery factory coming to nearby Storey County may help lure businesses to the region or city, as did an NNDA official. Marano referred to unnamed “potential investors” in making that assessment. “We’re very hopeful that the Tesla announcement will drive them over the top,” he said.
Danny Campos, NNDA vice president of business development, agreed the spinoff prospects are solid.
“There’s a lot that comes with the coattails of a company like that,” said Campos. “You’re going to have other companies follow.” Campos also is a key player in fashioning the Carson City-oriented approach for industry.
Rob Hooper, NNDA’s executive director, said manufacturing “is a key component to Carson City’s present and future economy” so it’s important for key existing industry to have available programs for support via government tie-ins. He said such programs come through NNDA “and their representation of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.”
Marano, meanwhile, addressed the need for new Carson City land and buildings to help attract companies or provide larger quarters if those already here grow. He said one way is to free up airport area land, working with the Carson City Airport Authority, so other than aviation-oriented manufacturing can locate there.
“It would require the city to re-zone,” he said, a change he didn’t see as a major problem. “That’s something the Board (of Supervisors) is very interested in.”
Marano said he’s working with Campos on the program to target NNDA services for Carson City firms and to establish metrics that would determine results. He said he wants periodic reports to Carson City’s mayor and supervisors from development authority officials about progress,
Marano said work toward metrics to assess one-year and two-year progress remains in the early stages at NNDA and are yet to go on the drawing board at the city. “We haven’t set it up at this point,” he said, but he emphasized that would be done. He repeated his call for periodic reports, suggesting they should be done quarterly.
The two-year pact upped Carson City’s funding for NNDA from $24,000 annually, which covers regional help, to $198,256 for this fiscal year and next. The amount above $48,000 is to focus on city specifics. The goals are to help existing city-based industry expand, aiding the firms with workforce needs and the like, as well as to lure in gap manufacturers to fill in needs that would enhance supply chain and other synergies.
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, a commercial realtor involved with NNDA, said his support is keyed to helping existing manufacturers grow even more than it is to luring in new ones through NNDA work.
“The vast majority of what we’re having them do is outreach to local manufacturers,” said Bonkowski. He said not only workforce development is important, but also help with legislative or congressional liaison and keying in on government incentives for manufacturing. He said metrics for determining success should include avoiding job losses or firms leaving, as well as local expansions and jobs growth.
Beginning earlier this month, Carson City building services, code enforcement and permit issuance was contracted out to Charles Abbott Associates of Mission Viejo, Calif., another aspect of Marano’s goal to enhance the city’s commercial viability and improve the economy, He wants to hit the sweet spot involving public safety via sound building codes assessment or enforcement while avoiding slowdowns and high costs that can hamper economic growth.
His goal, he said, is to keep the process “as simple and friendly as possible” because most small business firms in places like Carson City aren’t started or expanded by people expert in navigating the government services maze.
Marano said the city, however, has a clear responsibility to ensure health and safety for those in the community without “hindering economic activity, and it’s a balance.”
The California company handling building services in the Community Development Department has a track record of doing it for cities in both Nevada and California. It does it here for a percentage of building permit fees. Buster Scholl, Charles Abbott Associates’ regional spokesman, said the firm doesn’t like “beating people over the heads with the code” and encourages pre-design meetings with builders to work toward solutions.