Gilman touts ‘TRI-II’ in Fernley as future data-storage hub

The TRI II project is planned for a plot of private land on the south side of Fernley west of Highway 95A and east of the Storey/Lyon county line.

The TRI II project is planned for a plot of private land on the south side of Fernley west of Highway 95A and east of the Storey/Lyon county line.
Photo: Colleen Unterbrink

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With all the land in the expansive Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex (TRI) sold to tenants like Tesla, Switch and Google, developers Lance Gilman and Roger Norman Sr. have been quietly laying groundwork for their planned Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex-II, just east of the original TRI on Interstate 80 near Fernley.

Plans for are moving slowly – but surely – since the land needed for the project has a "checkerboard" layout with a mix of private and federal land.

Gilman and Norman have already secured more than 10 square miles of private land. However, buying federal land is not easy. Literally, it takes an “act of Congress” to make it happen.

“Congressman (Mark) Amodei is very positive that we are going to get through the House this year,” Gilman said on Nevada Newsmakers recently, referring to the U.S. House of Representatives.

After that, the bill must be approved by the U.S. Senate, where Gilman will rely on Nevada’s Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen to push the bill through.

“I'm hopeful,” Gilman told host Sam Shad. “It is amazing when you enter the world of the federal government, how things slow down.”

Gilman sees TRI-II as a future data-storage hub, suggesting Microsoft might have interest in locating a facility there.

Microsoft already has a facility in the original Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. Early this year, the company announced it had purchased 274 acres of vacant land for $16.425 million near Silver Springs.

The tech center planned there “will be very similar to what Apple and Google have built within the region,” Microsoft executives said in January.

Data centers are already booming in the Reno/Sparks/Fernley area already as Switch, Apple, eBay, and Google all have a data-center presence here.

“From a data-storage component, they need about three locations,” Gilman said of Microsoft. “It has to be a certain number of miles apart and it has to be safe, so if they lose one, they have a duplicate.

“In Microsoft's case, they have property in TRI, in Comstock Meadows,” Gilman said. “So they are doing a project now. The building is actually under construction.

“And they have their property down at Silver Springs and we would expect they would move out to TRI-II, in that area, and that will be the third leg of the stool.”

Gilman sees rural Northern Nevada, with its dry climate and open spaces, as a “prime” location for data storage.

“When you look at the criteria they (data companies) have for a site location: Safety, removed from freeway, and in areas where they are comfortable that it is safe for storing all of this data,” he said. “And then they need about three hubs.

“Nevada offers a lot of topography that works,” Gilman continued. “We have the expansive property. They are not going to develop in the Reno region, for example.

“They are going to go (east) and that's why I believe that our rural counties are in the cat bird’s seat for what I call high-dollar (developments),” he said.

“A data storage building might cost $600 to $800 a square foot to build, maybe more than that,” he said. “And so the investment is wonderful.

“The payrolls that they pay are way above average,” Gilman continued. “But they don't need to employ great numbers of people, so they are not impacting us all with the (auto and truck) traffic. But they bring a lot of wealth and a lot of demand.

“They also bring in a lot of other small companies, that want to keep an eye on their servers and all of the other stuff they have stored.

“So it brings in a lot of growth and wealth but not quite the impact a major (company) like Tesla might bring – with all of the employees and manufacturing. So it is an interesting industry and I think it will do well to have it in Northern Nevada.”

Water, of course, is the limiting factor for development in rural Nevada and TRI-II is expected to be nourished by importing water from another source, Gilman said. He hinted some water may come from the Humboldt River near Winnemucca but gave no specifics.

"We are looking at (water) importation projects that have some viability," he said. "So I think within the next 10 years, we will see that component come up."

Some of the planned developments in the Fernley area may not have enough water to make their project viable, Gilman added.

“We're comfortable in moving forward with TRI-II but some of the surrounding projects are going to have to line up and figure out where their water is going to come from," he said.

REAL WORTH OF TESLA: Tesla recently announced plans to invest $3.5 billion to build a semi-truck factory on its property in the original TRI.

It was great news but the biggest financial impact of Tesla and the other companies at TRI gets little attention, he said.

"When I look at the money Tesla has invested in the ground, I think that is secondary in some ways to the payroll they are generating," he said. "The payroll Tesla is generating, along with some of the companies that are coming in now, you're talking about $1 billion in payroll."

He later added: "That is really the fruit of the opportunity."

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