The new owner of the small airport in Fernley has plans to transform the airstrip into a modern regional aircenter serving private and government clients. The “Growth Resources, Assets, Safety, & Stability” opportunity zone fund (GRASS for short), helmed by Chief Executive Office and President Don Harmer, acquired the former Tiger Field airport from the Bureau of Land Management over the summer and is currently working on a plan to improve the airstrip and construct modern hangars for public and private clients. “We had the opportunity to acquire the old Tiger Field, which is now SAMSARG Field, along with roughly 250 acres adjoining the airport,” Harmer said in an early December interview with the NNBW. “We saw an opportunity to acquire the airport and surrounding areas and try to make a positive impact with an expansion of what we can do if we owned our own airfield. “Fernley is booming, but it’s still considered an underserved area. We are focused on investing in opportunity zones, and we are very heavily invested at the Silver Springs Airport.” To that end, the fund and its subsidiary company, SAMSARG Inc., are separately constructing a 24,000-square-foot specialized hangar at the Silver Springs Airport in Lyon County for Department of Defense contracting work, thanks to $5.04 million in financing SAMSARG secured in September.
Don Harmer, president and CEO of Corporate Services of Nevada, serves as president and CEO of GRASS.
SAMSARG has 15 acres under lease at Silver Springs and is trying to lease additional land for an eventual 40-acre campus that would have a mix of hangars to serve private and Department of Defense clients, Harmer said. Ranger Construction has already poured a 24,000-square-foot pad at Silver Springs Airport, and steel for the hangar should be erected this month, Harmer said. Dirt work for the apron and taxiway from the runway is expected to start soon as well, he added. The project also includes a one-mile extension of a municipal water line that will add water capacity for nearby residents. The hangar has a target completion date of late second quarter or third quarter of 2022, Harmer said. Meanwhile, development of additional infrastructure at SAMSARG Field will depend on user demand, Harmer said. Immediate improvements include widening and improving the current runway. Ideally, he added, hangar construction will be build-to-suit for tenants, but GRASS expects to develop some speculative hangar space as well. “(SAMSARG Field) will have to be improved to bring it up to a standard that meets the expectations of the demographic that’s moving into that area,” Harmer said. “But timelines are fluid. Right now, we are developing a plan and getting some cursory approvals and making sure everyone is on board with the vision. “We are trying to incorporate a short-, mid- and long-term optic to show what the planned expansions are. And we are still trying to acquire a couple more parcels. But it’s all contingent on capitalization and approvals. I think we will offer such a great product that hopefully we will have a lot of allies to help us.”
Tahoe Reno Industrial General Improvement District Board President, Kris Thompson, during a board meeting on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 at the Storey County office building in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Storey County. Photo: David Calvert / The Nevada Independent
Kris Thompson, project manager for Storey County’s Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and TRI II, a new 20,000-acre industrial development slated for the south side of Fernley, said TRI II and SAMSARG’s recent acquisitions actually share some property boundary lines. Thompson said expanded services at SAMSARG Field and Silver Springs Airport could prove beneficial to corporate executives and likely would become a part of marketing efforts for the new industrial park. “It would be great having an operational airport right next to our new project,” Thompson said. “It would be wonderful because commuter and executive flights are becoming more popular, especially coming out of the Bay Area because of the traffic. “We have long been supporters of the airport at Silver Springs. The fact that they are upgrading the airport just shows how Fernley is becoming the next epicenter of development along the I-80 corridor and Northern Nevada as a whole.” Based in Carson City, GRASS is a Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund (QOZF) and an IRS-designated Qualified Small Business Stock (QSBS) that invests in aviation, regulatory technology, aircraft hangars and drones. It announced in June the opening of its Reg A+ funding round after receiving federal approval; the minimum investment is $1,000.
GRASS fund logo.
SAMSARG Inc. is an aircraft parts, manufacturing and maintenance company headquartered in Lyon County that focuses on modifying U.S. government aircraft for specialized missions. It also secures hangar facilities that require focused specifications to service transport and cargo aircraft, including security system installation, additional maintenance and complex compliance documentation. The company has received significant tax breaks from the state of Nevada to do business in the Silver State. In September, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development approved $180,750 in tax abatements over 10 years for SAMSARG for its Tiger Field project in Fernley. The company will be required to create 25 jobs in its first two years of operation at an average weighted wage of $32.88 per hour. “The company expects its workforce to reach 147 employees in five years,” according to a GOED press release. “SAMSARG will make $1.2 million in capital equipment investment within its first two years of operation and generate $6.1 million in tax revenue over the next decade.” Go here to view SAMSARG’s September 2021 application with GOED. Meanwhile, in December 2020, GOED approved an additional $126,646 in tax abatements for SAMSARG for its entry into Silver Springs, in exchange for producing $6,417,240 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. According to a Dec. 2 GOED press release, the company will initially create 25 jobs at an average wage of $53.88 per hour for the Silver Springs project, which notes that the estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $725,722,245, which includes “180 jobs in addition to an estimated 46 construction jobs.” Go here to view SAMSARG’s December 2020 application with GOED.
NNBW Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.