What is Carson City’s outlook for business in 2018?
Taxable Sales Continue Upward Trend
Carson City’s taxable sales jumped 9.7 percent in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, from $961.7 million in 2016 to $1.1 billion in 2017. In the first four months of the current fiscal year, ending Oct. 31, 2017, taxable sales rose 11.1 percent, from $344.2 million to $382.3 million.
For Carson City, ongoing efforts to attract more companies, develop its workforce and bring some long-vacant land and properties back to life is the business of 2018.
The old year ended with layoffs at two of the city’s manufacturers. SunOpta Inc., a publicly-held maker of organic food products, shuttered its Conestoga Drive facility on Dec. 22, laying off 70 workers. Nature’s Bakery, a Reno-based maker of organic snack bars, announced it was reducing work at its Carson City plant from three shifts to one next month and letting go 80 employees.
Cutbacks at the two companies are more an indication of the same competitive market they operate in than any problems in Carson City’s manufacturing base.
Both companies provided severance pay and job placement assistance with the assumption other area manufacturers would snap up their skilled workers.
Labor shortages remain a problem in the region so Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) is launching a new program to retrain young workers in needed skills.
Realizing Opportunities for the American Dream to Succeed, or ROADS, will focus on retraining workers aged 25 to 30 who received no further education after high school and now are looking to reinvent themselves.
“We estimate there are 650,000 people in Nevada that fit into that,” said Rob Hooper, executive director, NNDA. “If we hit 20 percent of that marketplace we’ll exceed our workforce needs.”
Hooper says NNDA is working with a coalition of groups to identify prospects who could receive training and certification in any number of careers — manufacturing, medical technology, construction — that are in demand.
Meanwhile, the city continues work to create more available space for industrial businesses. In 2017, the Board of Supervisors created a new zone around the Carson City Airport to allow for industrial uses unrelated to aviation in order to free up some land for manufacturing applications.
In November, Reno Lumber purchased almost 5 acres of Carson City’s first certified site, part of a program launched by NNDA to ready vacant land for quick development.
NNDA is now working to clean up area brownfields and move them into the certified site program through a $600,000 grant Carson City signed onto this week.
“Inventory levels are at record lows in industrial space,” said Hooper. “In order to see growth, one of two things has to happen. Either the exit of a company allowing for space to be reused or development of new buildings.”
Hooper wouldn’t say what the grant, which is shared with Douglas County, will be used for, but he did say separately there’s an industrial park off Deer Run Road that once housed a burning dump NNDA is interested in redeveloping.
Still, the manufacturing base may be growing more elsewhere in the region.
“The real industrial growth is going to be in Minden, around the airport and the Bently Science Park,” said Hooper. “The big Kahuna is the Highlands project.”
The Highlands Industrial Park is a 12,000-acre site in Lyon County off the USA Parkway near Highway 50.
It was approved for development last year. The park would be similar to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in Storey County that houses Tesla, Switch, Zulily Inc., and other large tenants.
But Hooper says a new business or added jobs in one part of Northern Nevada is a win everywhere.
“It is so important that this area stand as a region. We’re looking at the Sierra region as a unified region,” said Hooper. “A job in Minden is a job in Carson City, as Mayor Bob (Crowell) has said.”
Hooper said the regional approach is key to recruiting and retaining businesses.
“If say we are the Sierra region with 225,000 people it is better than saying, for example, we’re Yerington and we have 6,000 people.”
City Manager Nick Marano said he endorses NNDA’s approach, that Carson City is part of a larger region and benefits from business growth no matter where it occurs.
The city itself, though, is focused on bringing business here, particularly downtown and especially to the Ormsby House.
“We’re very interested in working proactively with the prospective buyer,” said Marano. “We definitely want the buyer to know how transformational reopening the Ormsby House would be and that the city would be a good partner in that process.”
If the Ormsby House has a committed buyer should be known soon, or at least by March when its current owners are required to deliver a report to the Board of Supervisors in order to maintain the property’s building permit.
Part of the downtown icon’s importance is its convention space.
“We need convention space,” said Ronni Hannaman, executive director, Carson City Chamber of Commerce. “One of our biggest problems is meeting space downtown.”
Steve Neighbors, a Hop & Mae Adams Foundation trustee, agrees.
“We did a study years ago and identified 110 conventions we could pull here,” if suitable space were available, said Neighbors. “I’d be delighted if the Ormsby House does that.”
If not, convention space may be part of a foundation road map Neighbors is working on.
“We’re trying to bring a master plan to the community. It is going to take up a lot of my time in 2018,” said Neighbors, who plans to present it to the public by the end of the year.
The plan should include an outline of what the foundation wants to do on property it owns on Stewart Street, which was once slated for a large hotel complex to be built by a developer.
Stewart Street could also be the site of Neighbors’ upcoming project.
“The next project is a condo project. We’re looking at a couple locations,” said Neighbors. “I think that’s kind of a need in the downtown area. We’re trying to get a livable downtown and people would like to own.”
Neighbors said there’s a waiting list for the apartments now under construction at 308 Curry St. He said three-quarters of the second floor office space is already leased as is two-thirds of the retail space on the first floor.
The opening of the mixed-use building has been delayed due to construction labor shortages and is on track to open this spring, said Neighbors.
The foundation hit a home run in 2017 with the lease of the brewery building and opening of The Union, a popular downtown restaurant owned by a group of investors including Reno restauranteur Mark Estee.
Down Carson Street, the former Horseshoe Club is being refurbished. A pallet paint store called Rustically Divine is scheduled to open this month in one of the old casino’s buildings with more retail, including a locally-owned restaurant, opening later.
And farther down the road, literally and figuratively, Carson City’s first Nissan car dealership is planned to be built on the old Craft Market property.
Some old businesses were made new again in late 2017.
Slot World Casino was purchased by Mike Pegram, owner of Carson Valley Inn and Bodines, and completely refurbished.
Not far from the Highway 50 casino Advocates to End Domestic Violence built and moved its Classy Seconds thrift shop.
“Slot World is a game changer for that whole area,” said the Chamber’s Hannaman. “And the brand new building for Advocates spruces it up.”
The new year started off with a new industry for Carson City: recreational marijuana.
The city’s two medical marijuana dispensaries, RISE and Sierra Wellness Connection, both began selling retail pot on Jan. 1.
The sale of recreational marijuana became legal in the state in 2017, but the Board of Supervisors decided to delay sale here until 2018.
The new business will bring in additional tax revenue to the city.
Meanwhile, older industries continue to grow.
Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare is planning to issue $60 million in bonds to do several projects, including building a bridge to connect the hospital and surgery center.
“Healthcare is a big employer and we’ll continue to see it grow,” said NNDA’s Hooper.
And that bodes well for Carson City, said Hannaman.
“When you talk to new businesses looking at the area, schools and healthcare are the two things management cares about,” she said. “I think we have a pretty decent school district and our growing healthcare is pretty amazing.”