Counties working on economic recovery and expansion
Officials of five small western Nevada counties told the Northern Nevada Development Authority on Wednesday they are doing their best to work together on economic development issues instead of competing for business.
“There was a time in history when Lyon County, Douglas, Carson City and Churchill did not talk to each other,” said Lyon County Manager Jeff Page. “We never worked with each other. We were always in competition.”
He said all are doing a much better job of communicating and joining forces now.
Page said for example, Lyon officials are working with Storey officials on the impact of Tesla once the U.S.A. Parkway connecting the Dayton corridor to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Complex is completed. That and other TRIC projects are expected to open the door to significant employment opportunities for Dayton corridor residents.
Carson Manager Marano and Douglas County Economic Vitality Manager Lisa Granahan both said those counties are recovering from the recession.
Marano said, taxable sales are up 10 percent year over year, which he said is a “pretty good gauge of overall economic activity in the community.”
Granahan said Douglas’s biggest challenge “is the number of businesses interested in relocating and not having enough room for them to occupy.” She said there’s 1,200 acres zoned industrial with much of the infrastructure already in place but the cost of building and timing factors to get the businesses in are slowing construction.
Churchill manager Eleanor Lockwood joined Page in saying while things are getting better, they are still lagging behind those counties in recovering. She said Churchill didn’t feel the impact of the recession until after other parts of western Nevada and is slower coming out of it.
Page was more blunt: “I love how the media says everyone’s out of the recession. We’re not. We’re just starting to move out of it.”
All of the county officials in attendance said they are working to streamline permitting and other processes to make it easier for businesses to locate or expand.
“We have really established a commitment to making it easy to operate a business in Carson City; to start a business in Carson City,” said Marano.
More than one of the officials said modernizing business licensing and other codes is key to making life easier for incoming or expanding businesses.
That doesn’t seem to be an issue in Storey County where Administrative Officer and Planning Director Austin Osborne said they have completely streamlined those processes. He said, for example, they did the development maps for Tesla in just four days and, when the company asked how long to get a grading permit, simply handed it to the company.
Businesses, he said, “have 24 hour access to staff.”
He said, however, one advantage in Storey is the water, sewer, electricity highway and rail access is already in place at TRIC so they don’t have to worry about those needs when a business wants to move in.
Lockwood said Churchill, despite being a bit behind in the recovery, has several major projects coming including two large capital projects, a new senior center and a new law enforcement-jail, both near downtown Fallon.
Churchill, she said, also has Naval Air Station Fallon, a strong agricultural industry and eight geothermal plants operating to support its economy.
“Our revenues are steadily recovering,” she said.
Marano said Carson just opened the Mult-Purpose Athletic Center, also known as the MAC, and is preparing to contract for the Carson Street project in hopes of getting it done before Nevada Day. He said that will be the first of what will be major projects to upgrade all of the city’s commercial corridors including William Street and south Carson from Fairview to Spooner Junction.
Also in the works, he said, is a $30 million plus reconstruction and replacement of the city wastewater treatment plant he described as “old, out of date and, frankly, if you live near it, it doesn’t smell very nice.”
He said an ongoing issue is the condition of Carson’s streets and roadways but if voters approve gas tax indexing it would generate more money for that work. He said indexing would add only about three cents a gallon per year to the price of gas.
Page pointed to the coming development at Pumpkin Hollow by Nevada Copper. Thousands of acres were just released by the federal government to jumpstart that huge mining project and related development near Yerington.
He also pointed to planned development at the Silver Springs Airport, including runway expansion.
But he said Lyon’s big infrastructure project for the coming year is in Mound House — designing and funding the construction of a municipal sewer system to replace the commercial septic system that’s currently preventing much development.
Granahan said Douglas’s airport is also in the process of expanding while Bently Heritage is growing grain “that is going to become whiskey.”
The five county officials spent more than two hours briefing a capacity crowd who turned out for NNDA’s first monthly meeting of the year at the Carson Nugget.