The top 10 business stories of 2005
Appeal Staff Writer
1. Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center opens
Carson City’s new 352,000-square-foot medical center, 1600 Medical Parkway, opened for patients Dec. 3 after the closure of Carson-Tahoe Hospital in downtown Carson City. The old hospital is being used for outpatient services.
With 144 private patient rooms, the $118 million medical center has nearly 60 percent more acute-care capacity than the old hospital. The patient rooms are spacious, including wide windows, a large bathroom, a guest bed and Internet capabilities. About 62 employees were added to the hospital staff, most to accommodate the medical center.
Many local economic officials say the new hospital, under construction for about two years, and its medical campus, is the biggest economic boost for Carson City in 2005 and onward.
2. Real estate costs skyrocket; the price of a single-family home increases
Carson City’s commercial real estate prices have soared 30 percent in the last year and construction costs are up 20-30 percent, according to local real estate experts. City officials say that the retail business wants to come, and will come – it’s just expensive.
One factor in the price escalation is the limited space available in the city limits. Although some developers and brokers claim that little land is left, that’s not all. Prime locations along the new freeway, Carson and William streets are limited. According to the city, 1,100 acres are available for non-residential development. About 12 million square feet has already been developed for non-residential purposes.
Nevada used to be the place where homeowners relocated after cashing out in California. Now many are cashing out here and going toward the Midwest.
Carson City’s average housing costs have increased 13 percent from a year ago, according to the Northern Nevada Regional Multiple Listing Service. The average home cost of $358,000 is up 10 percent just from the first quarter of 2005.
This isn’t a surprise to Lynda Marz, Landmark Homes vice president of sales and marketing. She said the price of homes in Carson City and Dayton has increased 10-16 percent in a year, depending on the area.
3. Phase one of the Virginia & Truckee Railway is completed
If there was ever anything to make a Carson City casino manager happy, it would be the expectation of 160,000 visitors driving past that casino/hotel a year. These visitors will eat at local restaurants, buy souvenirs and prompt the construction of more commercial properties to boost property tax. This could trickle down to businesses in the form of economic incentives.
The first phase of the $40 million tourist track running about 19 miles between Virginia City and Carson City was completed in September.
The V&T originated in 1870 as the supply line to the silver strike in Virginia City. It transported passengers, property, goods and lumber to support the mines. The Virginia City line was abandoned in 1938 because of the decline in the mining industry. The entire railroad was pulled up in 1950.
Today, railroad fans, officials and those in the tourism industry are hoping to make bank off the reconstructed rail operating once again – transporting tourists. The plan chugged closer to reality after the completion of track from the Gold Hill depot to American Flat. The cost of 1.4 miles of track, and to fill the Overman Pit: $6.7 million.
The seven-part project is scheduled to be completed in December 2009. The Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway purchased a $420,000 steam engine to ride the rails in 2010.
4. Local manufacturers struggle to fill their ranks with qualified workers
Area manufacturers say this is an employee market – meaning a worker with a broad range of skill sets can choose the best job for him or her. Industry will compete for that employee.
Despite this, many workers complain that manufacturers aren’t paying enough to keep them.
Micromanipulator President/Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Hollman said it’s difficult to get qualified, dependable manufacturing or technical workers from the unemployment pool. The way the market is now, the most capable people are employed.
“In every society there are those who are not able to work, either because of a health problem, age, or that there is some part of their life that prevents them from having a job,” he said. “There are those who can’t work and those who won’t work.”
Hollman said Northern Nevada has done a good job in attracting business to the area, but not as good of a job in attracting qualified workers to work for those companies.
5. Wal-Mart Supercenter opens in North Carson City, to the joy – or dismay – of locals
Carson City’s new supercenter opened on Oct. 26 to the sound of employees’ cheers and cash registers ringing.
The East College Parkway store marked the mega-retailer’s return to the capital city after it closed the South Carson Street store about three years ago.
The 203,000 square-foot center employs about 400 and includes a vision center, grocery store, McDonald’s restaurant and the “low prices everyday” business model. Those who love it flock there, even those who don’t still need someplace to buy their shampoo.
Last year the Wal-Mart strategy earned the company $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion.
6. Jobs and revenue added with several biz expansions
Business wasn’t scared to expand in 2005. Some highlights:
• Rice Hydro Inc. added 8,805 square-feet of warehouse space. This expansion brings its 3500 Arrowhead Drive building to 25,205 square feet. It also provided jobs to three more Carson City-area residents.
• The Comstock Casino in Carson City has 40 more slot machines open to players in its 3,000 -foot expansion. That brings the casino to 12,500 square feet. Five employees were added.
• Hampton Inn & Suites, on North Carson Street, opened in mid-September. The $9 million hotel is owned and operated by Carson City couple Dave and Sheri Friedrich. The 85-room inn is exceeding 65 percent occupancy, primarily with business travelers, in its eighth week. In week one, the hotel had a 10 percent occupancy rate. The inn has provided jobs to about 20 locals.
• Citizens for Affordable Homes Inc., a builder of self-help homes, relocated in late December to its new office at 100 Pinecone Road in Dayton. CAHI has realized the dream of office ownership, after renting office space on Winnie Lane for about three years. The new building is adjacent to the nonprofit organization’s new residential development of 24 homes.
• Greater Nevada Credit Union opened a new 4,500-square-foot branch office at 4131 N. Carson St. This is the credit union’s third full-service Carson City branch.
• Vitamin Research Products doubled its manufacturing and office space in Carson City, and opened a company in Singapore to break into the Asian market. The company moved from Highway 50 East to a 55,000 square-foot building at 4610 Arrowhead Drive. It added about six employees.
• BG Corp. moved to 3535 Arrowhead Drive from its 9,000-square-foot shop and office on Forrest Way. The corporation manufactures loudspeakers primarily for the home entertainment market and public buildings, such as museums and libraries. The move tripled its space. It added three employees.
7. Locals ponder downtown redevelopment; a long-awaited restaurant opens
On June 13, the doors of the Lucky Spur opened for business after 30 years of vacancy. Locals saw a brand new Lucky Spur, Carson City’s last downtown revitalization project. Stew’s Sportatorium at the Lucky Spur, on the corner of North Carson and Proctor streets, took 14 months to renovate and cost $1.7 million. The 10,000-square-foot sports-themed bar and restaurant employs about 100.
In mid-September, city officials released the results of public comments on the downtown redevelopment plan. About 500 people contributed their ideas to the draft plan.
When downtown Carson City becomes a destination spot rather than a thoroughfare, locals overwhelmingly favor narrowing Carson Street to two lanes through a historic city center. They want to retain a hometown feel – rather than a flashy Vegas Strip or eclectic Lake Tahoe.
8. Dayton development offers more choices to growing community
After years of little or no commercial growth, residents here can now drive a short way down Highway 50 to find a mortgage broker or buy a fast-food hamburger at the burgeoning Smith’s shopping center.
For a township with a population around 15,000, local officials say, the commercial development is long-awaited.
Before Dayton Delta LLC of Minden began construction on the 6.5-acre project between Pine Cone and Retail roads, the majority of Dayton’s businesses were locally owned and operated. Phase one includes Round Table Pizza, Jack In The Box and Taco Bell. Starbucks, Dollar Tree, and national chain sandwich and video stores are in the second phase.
9. Piñon Plaza changes hands
Piñon Plaza owner Clark Russell announced on Nov. 15 the sale of the casino he built from the ground up to a national gaming corporation for $14.5 million.
Russell, president of Capital City Entertainment Inc., described the sale as a traumatic experience because his company grew up with the Piñon Plaza.
The announcement came as a surprise to the 320 Best Western Piñon Plaza Resort employees because of a confidentiality agreement between Capital City Entertainment, which also owns Carson Station Hotel/Casino and the Station Grille on South Carson Street, and buyer Jacobs Entertainment Inc.
10. Casino Fandango announces huge expansion plan
Casino Fandango officials announced a plan to build an expansion to the South Carson Street casino that could include a hotel, amphitheater, housing and a retail center. The cost could go as high as $60 million, but the general manager has yet to disclose an exact number.
Steve Forester, casino general manager, said the 100- to 200-room hotel will be located on Curry Street beside the casino. Carson Gaming LLC, which owns Fandango, closed escrow last month on about 30 acres off South Curry Street and Voltaire Canyon Road for $2.8 million.