Churchill Economic Development Authority’s chief envisions bright future for Fallon
Nathan Strong has been living in the Fallon area for nearly 20 years and now considers it his home, He’s very enthusiastic about his adopted hometown’s potential.
Strong, who was named interim director of the Churchill Economic Development Authority (CEDA) in November, sees Fallon, a community of almost 9,000, and its surrounding areas as a steadily growing region in 2017 and beyond.
He indicated several factors, including the thriving naval training station, emerging cultural arts scene, a slew of special events, a surplus of outdoor activities to attract tourists, abundance of renewable energy business opportunities, and the “Tesla Effect.”
“We’re starting to feel some of the Tesla Effect and we look to capitalize on it,” said Strong, recently met with NNBW at The Hub coffeehouse in Reno. “It has brought the world’s eye to the northern Nevada region.”
Strong envisions a large number of newcomers associated with the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center that are increasingly interested in living in Churchill County. Some executives, Strong said, come from densely populated areas and want freedom from the hassles of living in a big city, but to still have amenities close by in Reno-Sparks. He adds the distance is an attraction, with Fallon commute time similar to those of Sparks and the North Valleys area of greater Reno.
“I talked to one Tesla executive who has moved to Fallon from California, and he said (in California) he had to drive 11 miles to and from work and it usually took him an hour to make the commute,” Strong said.
Strong said town leaders have also invested heavily in its arts and culture scene, in an effort to make the town more attractive to a wider demographic.
Renovations have made at the historic Oats Park Arts Center, an art gallery that once housed the town K-12 school, and Barkley Theatre, which hosts plays and movies. The Churchill Arts Council was also created to foster a new generation of artists and performers in the rural region.
“Fallon is definitely not suffering for arts and culture,” Strong said. “We have many of the things that large cities have.”
Strong says building a vibrant arts and culture scene is essential in enticing younger generations to the area, something that he admits can be difficult for rural towns such as Fallon.
He said, attracting younger generations also provides a pool of potential entrepreneurs and future business owners, which can alleviate another challenge that confronts many small communities. Strong pointed out that small, rural communities have difficulties continuing what he termed “legacy” businesses, those long-time, locally or family-owned companies that may disappear because they have no succession plans.
“In small rural towns, it’s about the legacy businesses. We have names that have been in existence for 100 years,” Strong said. “In rural towns like Fallon, we risk losing these legacy companies in the 21st century. But we’ve had many people, including locals who have stepped into small business roles.”
Still, he says entrepreneurship and economic vitality of business continues to grow in Fallon. For example, the community has began participating in Small Business Saturday. Strong said in 2015 only seven businesses took part in the event, but that number jumped to 27 in 2016.
Strong was appointed interim director the CEDA after Fallon native Rachel Dahl stepped down to take a similar position in the southern Nevada town of Mesquite. Since taking over the post, Strong has hit the road, initiating partnership opportunities with the tourism and economic development organizations such as the North Tahoe Visitors Authority to promote Fallon and Churchill County.
“They have a lot of tourists who come through their visitors center and ask what else is there to do in the state of Nevada,” Strong said.
Strong was hoping to generate conversations with organizations in the Biggest Little City.
Even with all the potential for growth, Strong adds that Fallon’s leadership has been careful with expansion plan, allowing the town to be better equipped to survive the peaks and valleys of the economy over time.
“Fallon has done a very good job with ‘smart growth’ with slow, but steady expansion plans,” Strong said. “We had our share of foreclosures and businesses closing, but, like when we had the Recession, it hurt but we didn’t get hit that bad.”