A bit of country a bit of capital | NevadaAppeal.com

A bit of country a bit of capital

Becky Bosshart
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Joshua Baumgartner, 7, rides on his grandfather Julian Smith's tractor while cows follow on Smith's Washoe Valley racnch on Thursday morning.

From his living room window, Julian Smith can see all 35 of his cows grazing on his meadow.

“We like to be able to keep them where we can watch them closely, in case one got sick,” Smith said. “The meadows we have are very productive.”

He lives on a 29-acre ranch on the south end of Washoe Valley, just over the hill from Carson City. The Carson City attorney has Dutch Belted dairy cattle, often called “Oreo Cookie” cows, and Belted Galloway beef cattle.

No one can tell him his opinion about the capital city; he knows why he likes it. Smith moved in the 1970s and raised his kids here. His grandkids often come over to the ranch for soccer parties.

Smith’s reason for living in the Carson City area is simple:

“I like it here because we’re between the mountains and the desert. You can go a few minutes to get to the mountains or a few minutes to get to the desert.”

Economists, city planners and business leaders invest time and money into figuring out why people and businesses settle in an area, and how to attract them if they’re not. Several state economic authorities and a power company have invested $600,000 into a marketing campaign to woo California companies to Nevada. One economic official said it worked the first time, which is why they’re doing it for a second year.

But having a good reputation also helps. Recently Carson City has received two good reviews, and one was from author and CEO Jack Schultz.

He said in a telephone interview that “quality of life” makes a small town a boom town. He wrote the book on boom towns, literally. “Boomtown USA” was published this year and has received attention for ranking small towns based on his definition of quality of life.

Schultz, whose job is to develop businesses in small towns, said for three years he studied towns and their statistics, such as: health care, education, recreation, culture, taxes, cost of living, the crime rate, environment and access to transportation.

First, Schultz narrowed the small towns by population and coined a new term: “agurb.” His word takes the terms urban and suburban, but then throws in a little bit of the agrarian.

Then Schultz picked the top 100 agurbs, what he calls the “golden eagles.” These cities not only excel in quality of life, they also employ his seven and a half keys of success, which include encouraging entrepreneurs, maintaining local control and having a “can-do attitude.”

“We picked the top 100 communities that really had outstanding statistics,” Schultz said. “And only one in Nevada is in the top 100.”

Carson City is that boom town, U.S.A. He said in the last six months he’s given 80 talks about the book. And to whom he has given most of those talks isn’t really a surprise: chambers of commerce and economic groups.

Critics have both hurrahed and harangued Carson City.

Authors of the book “Cities Ranked & Rated,” placed Carson City 40th on a list of 45 emerging cities, calling it “an ugly mix of second-tier casinos and urban sprawl.” Reno was ranked the ninth-best city out of 50. Charlottesville, Va., was first on that list.

A niche magazine also evaluated the capital city, but with a different purpose. True West magazine writers and readers named Carson City as the best Western historical site in Nevada in this month’s Best of the West issue.

Candy Duncan, Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director, said any time the city gets a high rating in a publication it’s bound to have some good effects.

“‘Cities Ranked & Rated’ had Carson City low on the list, but Best of the West said we’re the best historic destination,” she said. “So you can be just all over the place.”

State archivist Guy Rocha said Schultz’s review may be a little too rosy, but it could be nicely spun by local agencies. The chamber of commerce and developmental authorities can point a manufacturer to these positive reviews, but then omit the unflattering ones.

“The negative ones are ignored, or they’re attacked, but the positive ones are generally embraced and not necessarily critically analyzed,” he said. “They are all subjective to a certain point. And the question is after reading it, how valid do you (the consumer ) think it is?”

Rocha said Carson City is probably more in the middle of all those reviews. The city has problems, such as the highway infrastructure that hasn’t matched growth, air quality that could become a problem and water availability. But, he said, it isn’t an undesirable place. “People can’t find houses to buy here so it can’t be that bad.”

In the end, Schultz said, people often make the decision of where to settle based on one simple question:

“Where do I want to raise my family?”

Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.