The newest boom to hit the Comstock | NevadaAppeal.com

The newest boom to hit the Comstock

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Dean Haymore, planning administrator for Storey County, talks Wednesday about one of the warehouses being built in the USA Parkway area of the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.
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For 15 years, people in Northern Nevada called Dean Haymore crazy.

Haymore, administrator of Storey County’s Building Department, had long envisioned a huge industrial park on the old Asamera Ranch, in the northeast section of the county.

The ranch, which covered 54 percent of Storey County and a small part of Lyon County, had little water and areas of steep terrain. Many wrote it off as useless.

But with help from county commissioners, current and former, Harvey Whittemore, Joe Dini and some mysterious visitors he met in the mid-90s, the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center is the largest in the world today.

Haymore brought former Storey County Commissioner Henry Bland out to the property to show what potential it had. Bland told Haymore to put together a master plan, and with the help of planning commissioners and county commissioners, he did just that.

Owners of the Asamera Ranch had sold the property to Gulf Canada Resources Ltd., which fenced 103 acres, put in a landing strip and an 18-room lodge, with the idea of turning the property into a private hunting club. At the time it was considered a remnant property, part of a 1986 purchase of the Asamera mining operation in Washington state.

One day in the mid-90s, Haymore said he was out near what is now the Patrick exit, when he saw four men he didn’t know walking around the vast area. They exchanged a few pleasantries, and one of the men told Haymore, “This would make a great place for an industrial park.”

Haymore called Gulf Canada Resources Ltd., to see if they would develop or sell the property and still ran into roadblocks.

“I had to talk them into sending their real estate guy out here for five to seven years before I could make a deal,” Haymore said.

The mysterious strangers also made a few calls.

In 1998, when Gulf Canada instituted a debt reduction plan, the Asamera Ranch was sold to Roger Norman and Lance Gilman, who began to develop the park.

Dini got $1.5 million from the state Legislature and the Nevada Department of Transportation provided $1 million, and a frontage road and some infrastructure were built in a matter of months.

One of the first companies to buy into the park was the Mars Corp., the huge food conglomerate most famous for its candy.

It turned out that company owner Forrest Mars Jr., was one of the strangers Haymore had met near the Patrick Exit.

“I did not know it at the time, but they were on their way to Fernley to sign a deal to put the plant in Fernley,” Haymore said. “It was fate or the will of God or something that I was out there the same day they were looking around.”

Now TRI has become the biggest boom in Storey County since the days of the Comstock Lode, with many Fortune 500 companies from all over the world locating factories and warehouses in the park.

“Ninety-nine percent of Storey County residents have no clue what’s out here,” Haymore said.

In 2004, Wal-Mart selected TRI as a site for a 900,000-square-foot distribution warehouse. Other major companies now located there, or in the process of building, include Mars’ Masterfoods Inc., Royal Sierra Extrusions, APL Logistics, Dell, Alcoa, Duraflex, Hardie Building Products, Kal Kan, PetSmart and Pittsburgh Paints.

But not everyone who develops in TRI is a multinational corporation. Haymore said one- to five-acre lots are available for small developers, and, he said, smaller developers are just as welcome as larger ones.

The industrial park is expected to employ 8,000 people by the end of 2007, and eventually could employ 180,000 workers.

This influx of workers, for which Storey County has few housing opportunities, has caused friction between Storey and neighboring Washoe and Lyon counties. Officials from those areas believe it is unfair for Storey to reap the benefits of industrial development, for which services like police and fire protection are relatively inexpensive compared to residential development.

Lyon County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Page said it cost about $1.37 to provide services to residential developments for every $1 paid in taxes. For industrial, the cost is 37 cents for every $1 paid in taxes.

Rob Loveberg, Lyon County planning director, has said his county can’t afford to be just a residential base for TRI.

“I believe that there needs to be some coordination so that housing units and jobs are spread over multiple jurisdictions or some kind of revenue sharing takes care of the disparity between business and residential units.”

The Storey County Planning Commission is considering a master plan amendment and zone change to allow an 8,600- to 15,000-home planned- unit development called Cordevista to offset some of those concerns, but it has run into opposition by residents of the nearby Virginia City Highlands.

A development of about 3,500 homes in Painted Rock has already been approved.

TRI is building a fire and police complex in the industrial park and, Haymore said, the remaining building will be left as a shell to be used for county administration when that becomes necessary.

Haymore said he does everything he can to help companies locate in TRI – many factories and warehouses have been up and running in six months – but developers must be willing to help the county with infrastructure and other needs.

He knows that, like the mining boom of the 1800s, this boom could end, and said he plans to be very careful with planning.

“I don’t like to squander the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “I want to do proper planning for future generations.”

He said the boom has turned Storey County around.

“We were upside down until about a year ago,” he said. “For a small county with a small budget, to put in an industrial park this size is amazing.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.

Fast Facts on TRI

• TRI covers 104,000 acre, or 54 percent of Storey County

• Only 30,000 acres are buildable because of steep terrain

• 8,000 people will work at TRI by the end of 2007

• It could one day employ 180,000 workers

• The park is being built in six, 5,000-acre increments

• The 25-year buildout plan for Phase I was completed in seven years.

• There is easy access to Union Pacific railroad tracks and Interstate 80

• One new building is the size of seven football fields, though most are between 300,000 and 500,000 square feet.