Lyon County eyes right growth for its needs

Lyon County Community Developer Andrew Haskin speaks Wednesday as County Commissioner Wes Henderson, far left, Northern Nevada Development Authority Executive Director Philip Cowee, Lyon County Manager Jeff Page, mediator John Cassinelli of Dayton-based Cassinelli Landscaping and Construction and County Commissioner Ken Gray listen. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)

Lyon County Community Developer Andrew Haskin speaks Wednesday as County Commissioner Wes Henderson, far left, Northern Nevada Development Authority Executive Director Philip Cowee, Lyon County Manager Jeff Page, mediator John Cassinelli of Dayton-based Cassinelli Landscaping and Construction and County Commissioner Ken Gray listen. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)

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DAYTON — Ensuring diversification while strengthening its economic development has changed for Lyon County throughout the years, but ultimately county and regional business officials know what they’re looking for to encourage success.
The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon Wednesday addressing the region’s ongoing efforts and needs to expand with new or existing businesses and infrastructure in Lyon County at the Dayton Valley Golf Club.
The panel included Lyon County Manager Jeff Page and recently hired Community Development Director Andrew Haskin as well as Northern Nevada Development Authority’s Executive Director Philip Cowee. John Cassinelli of Dayton-based Cassinelli Landscaping and Construction moderated, first asking the panelists about steps Lyon is taking to improve on the creation of wealth and high-wage jobs before inviting the public to ask the panel their own questions.
Page, Cowee and Haskin provided insights on the county’s opportunities for growth and quality of life, including the Webstaurant distribution center in Dayton, while identifying possible challenges that have come with recent population changes or zoning requests.
“Economic development is the right building in the right community at the right time to bring growth,” Page said. “What is the right business? We never wanted and we no longer want a 500-person operation that pays minimum wage to 499 people and six figures to the CEO.”
Page recalled one of the best events to happen to Lyon was the Great Recession in 2010, forcing the county to lay off 30% of its workforce, make its departments think smarter and push its Planning and Community Development departments to consolidate. In turn, the community developer position became open and Page took on the responsibility of the role for about 16 months before Haskin was hired.
Page, noting the typical county “cookie-cutter approach” does not work for Lyon for many of its operational decisions, said much of this was the basis in establishing a new planning process that would bring new business and residential opportunities in the long run.
“Economic development is more than just bringing a business or a box store to your community,” Page said. “It’s what else they do to enhance quality of life within the community.”
Haskin, previously serving as director of business development at the NNDA, now oversees planning, building, code enforcement and engineering. He said he has spent his time since joining the county talking to local companies about social responsibility and giving back to their community.
But a central role for Haskin is to ensure developments are meeting standards and working with the Nevada Department of Transportation’s traffic engineers, and with the influx of residents and businesses comes more traffic.
Lyon’s eight communities, which have seen an average rate of growth of 3 to 4 percent annually, are seeing increases in infrastructure concerns. Approximately 75 percent, Cowee cited, commute out of Lyon daily to go to work. Page added there is no significant building occurring in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center so the county likely could see slower growth in the near future without any large employers coming to Fernley and the north portion of Lyon soon.
However, there are still long-term transportation impacts elsewhere. For example, Highway 50 in Dayton has been a constant source of concern. Lane reductions that began even as recently as September for utility repairs and are in effect through the end of October are slowing traffic from Dayton Valley Road through Townsend Street, creating delays. Page said it would be more appropriate to designate it as a boulevard for safer traffic and loop it around Dayton similar to Reno-Sparks’ McCarran Boulevard.
“When I hear people say, ‘I want the rural flavor of what Dayton was,’ that’s gone,” Page said. “Let’s face the facts and figure it out how we deal with it as the population grows. … Our senior population is increasing 6% a year countywide. We need to have businesses countywide to help our seniors as well as have the tax rate and base to be able to provide those services.”
Cassinelli asked Cowee and Haskin about recruiting strategies for Lyon and what the NNDA could do to increase business growth and invite employees where housing in certain areas might be restricted, especially in Yerington or Silver Springs where the Anaconda Mine site will bring in more jobs in the new few months but Page said there is no new or affordable housing available for workers.
Cowee said it’s similar to the Webstaurant situation in Dayton, adding while said all Northern Nevada’s counties are welcoming, and it depends on what employers and businesses are looking for specifically. While he attributes his success to holding listening tours, it’s generally harder to attract younger generations to rural settings like Lyon, he said.
“There’s a pretty big captive audience if we can figure out how to reroute them,” Cowee said. “The problem is we seem to be losing affordability. Think of Section 8. We’re not talking about apartments. We’re talking about places a first-time homebuyer can live in. Kids graduate from (the University of Nevada, Reno) or Dayton High School, and having an opportunity to come into one of these businesses or will be coming and having a good career. These are career jobs.”
Cassinelli asked about the impact of opportunity zones within the county, and Page said there are several misnomers when it comes to the program intended to provide tax breaks to smaller franchises interested in entering communities. Page said although opportunity zones have been established in Lyon and Storey counties and Carson City, they have yielded little immediate benefit although it has been a significant issue to Lyon.
“It’s always a moving target,” Page said. “The concept itself is not a bad concept. It’s worked well in other jurisdictions. It makes sense for Disney World to provide fire and water. But it’s requiring us and Storey County to do the same, and we’ve strongly opposed this at the Legislature and other hearings … and I don’t need any more bureaucracy.”
After the luncheon, Commissioner Ken Gray, who represents Dayton, said he felt the panel “hit the nail on the head” about providing the right information to the public, concerned about a question he had heard about Dayton potentially becoming incorporated in a similar fashion to Fernley.
“There’s so much misinformation to become a city,” he said. “People don’t understand what it takes. It would break the city of Dayton immediately.”
He said he would prefer to deal with the Highway 50 traffic impact issue first with the residential influx expected on the corridor.
“It’s part education and part engineering,” he said.
Resident Jim Davis, a retiree from California who has been in Dayton less than 11 months, came to Lyon County because he wanted to enjoy the rural lifestyle. He offered suggestions for the Highway 50 concerns after noting he’s been cognizant of several fatalities along the roadway in recent months.
“Out east of Dayton, a little ways out past Occidental Square, there’s a frontage road each side of the highway,” Davis said. “We can continue the rights of way big enough. They (the county) already own the land and they can continue the frontage roads and put in a regular overpass and put in a cloverleaf every so often, every two, three, five miles and then the local traffic can go up and down and cross over and go back and it wouldn’t be buying property and acquiring this and minimal environmental impact because it’s already set up for that.”
Davis said the area already has become more urban in the short time he’s lived in Dayton and that it has lost a certain amount of “rural” flavor.
“We’re trying to attract major corporations and business and warehousing and we’re already talking about getting trains out to Fernley and moving good easily and we’re going to set this up and go, stop, go, stop, go, stop. That doesn’t make sense to me.”


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