County managers gather to discuss economic trends
Area county managers gathered in Carson City on Wednesday to address changes and trends affecting their areas.
The county managers from Carson City, Lyon, Douglas, Storey and Churchill counties were in the capital city to attend a breakfast meeting hosted by the Northern Nevada Development Authority.
Carson City Manager Larry Werner said while the city begins to cope with budget cuts as a result of chronic shortfalls in sales tax revenue, “we seem to be bottoming out. We had our first positive sales tax receipts number in 22 months. It was up half a percent.”
Regardless, more cooperation is be needed among regional governments to help spur an economic recovery, he said.
Werner also noted the upcoming 30 percent increase in water rates to pay for piping water from Minden to Carson City given high arsenic and uranium levels in the local water supply.
Dennis Stark, of Lyon County, said the region is coping with 19 percent unemployment, a loss of 2,000 people and a county budget nearly cut in half.
“Lyon County has suffered its share of difficulties in the recent past,” Stark said. “But there are a lot of positive things going on in Lyon County.”
The county recently was awarded a $400,000 federal grant to clean up oil-based products.
He noted the Silver Springs Airport, which recently installed a fueling station, as well as efforts made by NNDA to bring a Bonnie Plants facility, a Comfort Inn and potentially a Walgreens to Lyon County.
“Our focus is looking toward the future and developing a plan for the next legislative session,” Stark said.
Pat Whitten, the county manger in Storey County, said he looked at some notes he wrote for a presentation he made to a local Rotary Club two years ago and said he was astounded by the changes.
“Things have changed. Two and a half years ago I was absolutely bragging about the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center – that I will continue to brag about until the day I die,” Whitten said. But things have slowed since the initial wave of interest from major companies such as Dell Computers.
“Today, it’s kind of like time froze in some respects, again with some big glimmers of hope on the horizon,” he said.
He said a diesel refinery is setting up shop in Storey County while the Virginia and Truckee Railroad brings about 140 tourists to Virginia City up to four times a week, starting this weekend.
Michael Brown, the county manager of Douglas County, said cooperation among counties will be key to growing business.
He said the focus in the county today is outdoor manufacturing and lifestyle industries as well as clean room industries, even though they require large amounts of water to operate.
Brad Goetsch, of Churchill County, said his region is largely dependent on military spending at the Fallon Naval Air Station as well as agriculture and geothermal energy.
Goetsch said farmers in the region are raising a grain known as “teff,” which is used to make gluten-free foods. He said there are efforts to start milling the grain in Churchill County instead of exporting it to California for processing.
“What we don’t have are defense-related industries,” he said.
He added, “I think the urbans need the rurals, I don’t think we need to look alike. I think it’s good there are differences among the counties.”