Communities bracing for TRIC’s impact |

Communities bracing for TRIC’s impact

Steve Ranson
The yellow on this map represents the sprawling Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

As a candidate for the Board of Regents, Sara Lafrance has a strong desire to see that Nevada’s educational institutes such as the University of Nevada, Reno and the area’s community colleges are prepared for Northern Nevada’s explosive business growth.

Likewise, Lance Gilman, a developer and principal of Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, a 102,000-acre industrial complex known as the largest planned industrial center in North America, shares her vision.

“There’s some wonderful things coming,” said Gilman, who addressed a small but interested gathering at the Fallon Convention Center on Monday. “Candidly, the Northern Nevada market is ready to explode.”

Gilman spent about 45 minutes discussing the future growth in the area that may affect every community within a 50-mile transportation ring of TRIC. County Commissioner Bus Scharmann, who spent 35 years with Western Nevada College and served as its dean during the twilight of his career, elaborated on the educational and infrastructural needs for a vibrant workforce.

“My focus is what’s happening in the Northern Nevada community,” Gilman explained, while showing a map of TRIC, which was highlighted in yellow. “The trade area is graphically depicted by that map.”

Gilman said TRIC consists of 102,000 acres or about 62 percent of the land in Storey County. His company began the development process at TRIC in 1998 and by 2001, Dermody Properties bought the first 200 acres. Although the 104,000-acrea industrial park is the largest in the world, Gilman, though said because of the hilly terrain, only 30,000 acres or six pads of 5,000 acres each make up TRIC.

The ultimate potential in developing 300,000 jobs is a possibility, said Gilman, who moved to Reno in 1985 from California. Gilman said the Reno area had been named one of the country’s top 10 boomtowns for the 1990s.

The jewel of TRIC, though, is Tesla, the huge gigafactory that will reach full capacity in 2018 and produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013. At first, Gilman said Tesla was not interested in the Northern Nevada market, but after numerous calls and meetings, the company was swayed by the state’s willingness to work with the company and offer tax incentives.

Before Tesla, Gilman said TRIC had 120 companies, but since that time, 30 more have sprung up.

“TRIC is a very diverse economy,” he pointed out.

Other companies making home at TRIC include online marketplace giant eBay, which will build its fourth major data center after a deal was finalized almost one year ago, and Switch, a major data center comprising of 3 million square feet and costing $1 billion. Gilman said eBay has invested money in electronic equipment in servers and backup equipment, while Switch is one of the top high-tech businesses that deals with the top 1,000 companies in the world.

Scharmann said Fallon’s CC Communications technology and connectivity would also be a big part of the ongoing development in Northern Nevada.

“CC Communications is looking to spread out (and) to move in different areas touched by TRIC,” Scharmann said, adding cyber security could flourish for the company.

As companies move into TRIC, other firms may establish themselves in the Reno area or east to Fernley and Fallon. Scharmann said the domino effect could develop as Fallon, for example, could see the growth for more farmers in the area and the relocation of dairy operations from California to the Fallon-Lovelock-Yerington triangle.

“A lot of the dairy farmers (in California) are looking to get out of the business to plant almond trees,” said Scharmann, who grew up in central California before moving to Nevada in the 1970s.

Transportation is also crucial, not only to TRIC but also to the Fernley and Fallon markets.

Scharmann said the possible growth of rail traffic out of Hazen could help local businesses and dairy farmers ship their products out of state.

Earlier in his presentation, Gilman pointed out how the Silver Springs airport has the potential to be a big player in the shipment of goods from TRIC. A proposal to build an interstate highway from Nogales, Ariz., to Reno along the current routes of Interstate 19, Interstate 10, and U.S. Highways 93 and 95 could be a reality.

“There’s a lot of interested with the new Interstate coming east of Fallon. We think the highway should go through Churchill County and hook up at Trinity,” Scharmann said.

Furthermore, the Churchill County commissioner said his concerns are to meet needs of industries coming to TRIC and the Lahontan Valley. He said WNC and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension would step up its education offerings and possibly expand the experimental farm near U.S. Highway 95 and across from the fairgrounds.

Currently, WNC has established programs to train the workforce for the jobs that Tesla and Switch are bringing to the area. One of the pluses for WNC meeting the needs of the workforce, said Scharmann, comes from the college’s president, Chet Burton, who retired from the U.S. Navy as an officer and then worked in private business.

Gilman, however, said much capital lies on the sidelines.

“But we’ll wait until after the election to see what happens,” he said, citing the need for businesses and investors to be cautious until they see what happens with the government and the new president.