Despite a year of restrictions implemented because of the coronavirus, Churchill County now seems poised to move forward with economic development.
Bruce Breslow addressed Churchill County commissioners at last week’s meeting on current and potential economic growth to the county. He was selected in September as an independent contractor to lead the efforts of the new Churchill Fallon Economic Development. The new agency is a partnership between the city and county to recruit businesses whose activities are compatible with the region and to seek out businesses to locate or relocate to the area.
Breslow said a major problem facing Churchill County is housing. He pointed out, though, a regional homebuilder is interested in building houses and a major apartment complex that could have a clubhouse, swimming pool and other amenities. Although he wouldn’t offer details, Breslow said another deal for 100 lots off Coleman Road hasn’t closed yet with the city.
A new website has been developed to answer questions and present information on economic development and attractions in Churchill County.
Breslow said within 18 months, most of the new homes built in the Onda Verde subdivision have been bought, and other homes are being constructed on previously developed lots west and east of Venturacci Lane and south of the canal. He said most of those lots were ready for construction until the Great Recession during the last decade.
Even Naval Air Station Fallon is affected by the housing shortage.
“The base is between 180 to 230 houses short, and they desperately need additional housing,” Breslow said. “More than 22% commute from a different county.”
Breslow said he learned 30 sailors were living in unaccompanied housing and left their families behind, and more are living in recreational vehicles. Breslow said he recently met with the base’s commanding officer, Capt. Evan Morrison, and other personnel to discuss the housing situation and plans for the air station’s growth.
NAS Fallon has tried to keep up with its growth by adding additional housing. A $100 million project has included the construction of 139 new homes and the renovation of 80 existing houses. According to Clark Realty Capital, the project will be done in phases to minimize disruption, maintain pedestrian access to sidewalks and avoid displacement of military families.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing representatives said in 2016 they were encouraging new residents to look at Fernley and Fallon as better areas for affordable housing, educational opportunities and quality of life. With the completion of USA Parkway in late summer 2017 to U.S. Highway 50, the USDA said Silver Springs, Dayton and Yerington are within easy driving distance to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center midway between Fernley and Sparks.
Moreover, in the rural communities, the USDA said homebuyers can receive 100 percent financing from the agency, sometimes at a reduced interest rate.
Breslow displayed a website touting the area’s attractions for new businesses and then briefed commissioners on plans. He walked commissioners through the website’s sections aimed at people wanting to move to Churchill County and for developers. One of the links portrayed Fallon as a strong representation of Americana with values and a sense of community pride.
“Welcome to Mayberry and the Wild, Wild West,” he said. “We want to differentiate ourselves and show the sense of community here, which is spectacular.”
To the west, near Hazen, is a project to develop up to 5.7 square miles. TerraScale is partnering with an energy-as-a-service company, AlphaStruxure, for designing, building and financing an integrated project. The project, which was announced in late 2020, combines various renewable sources including solar and wind to geothermal power. In a press release, a $3 billion data center and business park are proposed to be built in Churchill County that may include a high-security military operation.
Furthermore, Breslow said other plans for an environmentally safe plant for ammunition/munition disposal could be constructed on 640 acres of land between the city limits and Interstate 80. He added the facility, which could employ 60 people, is awaiting for final military approval.
Breslow said the area is also attracting companies who work with rail transportation, and he also mentioned the Churchill-Hazen Industrial Park, which includes the development in its first phase of about 2,300-acres of industrial zoned property on the south side of U.S. Highway 50 on the Union Pacific-Mina Line in Churchill County.
According to the county, “This designation would set up Churchill County as an asset for the development of regional and global trade by facilitating container travel from Hazen through to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (companies located along USA Parkway) and on to the Port of Oakland.”
Breslow said the former Black Gold Rail Terminal west of Hazen has been bought. The planned Western Nevada Commerce Center has good proximity to Interstate 80 and within 45 minutes of Reno. According to information released by Industrial Realty Group, LLC., in late November, “The master plan features development land for build-to-suit opportunities and outside storage/yard space, 24/7 rail transloading, and an existing switch with rail infrastructure. Also in place are necessary utilities and favorable zoning.”
Breslow said the Black Gold operated in Lyon and Churchill counties, but the main operations were in Churchill County.
Industrial Realty Group stated the rail terminal has an east-to-west Class 1 freight rail mainline with existing direct spurs, and direct and dual-service from Class 1 railroad mainlines Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company. About 5,000 linear feet of track is already in place with plans for expansion.
Sara Beebe, director of operations for the Churchill Economic Development Authority, reviewed the agency’s activities with the commissioners. She said CEDA partnered with a number of organizations to bring the Nevada Farm Conference to Fallon one year ago this month.
The conference, which was founded in 2003, educated producers and the community about regional, commercial agriculture and to build economic, social and environmental sustainability through an annual conference in Nevada. Additionally, the city of Fallon and other professionals in marketing presented information on the growing agritourism industry in Nevada.
Another activity occurred in early March when CEDA, Western Nevada College and the Churchill County School District partnered to host LifeReady. High school students learned more about the employment offered in Northern Nevada. Freshmen through seniors attended presentations about life after high school at Western Nevada College, the LifeReady College and Career Expo at the Fallon Convention Center. The students took tours of local companies and organizations that represent industries with in-demand, and livable wage careers.
Beebe said the events were held before the governor shut down or partially curtailed the operation of many businesses due to the pandemic. She said CEDA procured grants totaling $135,692 to fund many Churchill County businesses.
According to Beebe, CEDA will recruit between six to 12 business owners and community members to sit on a strategic plan committee that will survey the community and small businesses to assess future needs from the agency and also the Small Business Development Center.
Beebe said one of her plans is for CEDA to begin a newsletter.
CEDA has begun working with the Fallon Food Hub on a Growing Farmers workshop that will be conducted in collaboration with the Healthy Communities Coalition in Lyon and Storey counties. Beebe told commissioners this will be a three-part training workshop for home gardeners interested in commercial produce growing. Additionally, she said the workshop could increase the number of micro-farms within the region to bolster more fresh vegetables to farmers markets.
Beebe said CEDA is considering to absorb the Main Street Program. The Nevada Main Street is a holistic approach to Main Street revitalization that involves aesthetics, business creation/retention, and housing that will lead to a healthy and economically vibrant communities.
She said CEDA also will continue to provide COVID-19 support through the Small Business Administration programs as needed, and she looks at a possible return for the Small Business Lending Clinic this year.