Ronni Hannaman: Carson City businesses look to the future

 Resilience is the byword of business, which opts to look forward rather than be buried by that it cannot control.
No matter how challenging 2020 was, Carson City businesses are now poised for better days as the vaccination process gains momentum and the more stringent restrictions are relaxed to allow freer citizen movement to patronize businesses most affected by governmental mandates.
Many local businesses were able to hang on if even by the proverbial thread. Sure, a few smaller businesses were forced to close, some temporarily since it was determined to be less expensive to pay rent than to operate under the government-mandated criteria. On the flip side, a number of new businesses optimistically opened, giving us all a sense of hope.
While we all felt the doom and gloom of the pandemic within the state, Carson City was better able to weather the storm since ours is considered one of the most diversified and balanced economies in Nevada. Fortunately, much of Carson’s workforce was considered to be “essential.”
As the seat of Nevada’s government, it stands to reason our primary workforce is within the government sector, a sector apparently able to work from anywhere. The Carson City School District and Western Nevada College were able to retain staff, as did city and federal government agencies.
Though much of the government sector was duly employed, the effect of working from home was felt on “essential” support industries that were allowed to operate only under strict guidelines. Restaurants were the hardest hit and today are still reeling from the closure and continued strict mandates.
Our diverse manufacturing sector hummed along, some scrambling to keep pace with orders while trying to find qualified employees. Healthcare, a prime employer, continues to be subject to the state government mandates.
Builders kept building and South Carson Street was redeveloped as was planned with hundreds of orange cones testifying to robust growth. Much needed upscale apartments rose out of the ground, and single-family home and townhouse construction continued to try to keep up with the demand. Realtors sell just about everything on the resale market.
While all the building signals unheralded growth, our retail and indoor dining establishments continue to struggle. Jobs in both these sectors have never regained their previous numbers as shoppers learned to navigate online, keeping the city’s sales tax figures higher than anticipated.
Continued government mandates keep local restaurants on the brink; however, a few new non-fast-food restaurants did open successfully with more on the drawing board. The much-anticipated Chick-fil-A opened on Jan. 21, creating a welcome major traffic jam on South Carson Street. All-in-all, most fast-food establishments did not feel the pain suffered by the full-service restaurants.
Tourism suffered as casinos and major attractions closed and hotels/motels felt the brunt of lack of heads in beds as one after another major event was canceled and citizens were told to quarantine. Even so, a new Staybridge Hotel is scheduled to open on College Parkway in March.
Ever mindful of the need for small business health, the City of Carson City jumped in to assist small businesses using CARES act funds to provide free PPE, sanitary supplies and more to defray costs of the new operating standards. Even a part-time compliance officer was hired to educate businesses to keep them from being fined by OSHA.
The concern at the moment is the lackluster sales in the commercial market as larger firms reduce their footprint. Harley Davidson Financial is selling their national headquarters, opting for a much smaller building now that most employees are working from home. Yet, a new center will soon open to house the offices of Advocates to End Domestic Violence.
As the federal, state and local government continues to provide financial relief to small businesses and citizens, the ability to weather the remainder of this pandemic finds Carson City in good stead.
Business and citizens are poised to move forward supporting their community and coming out of this test of resiliency stronger than before.
Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce. Reach her for comment at director@carsoncitychamber.com.

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