Economic development — the plan to create a plan |

Economic development — the plan to create a plan

by Sally J. Taylor

This is the first in a series on a new economic development plan for Carson City.

Imagine Carson City with its best economic foot forward: healthy in all aspects of its economy from state government to manufacturing, plus retail and tourism in between.

National economic downturns would only be blips on the bottom line.

Guests and residents alike would enter Carson City amidst smoothly flowing traffic with eye-pleasing development along the way.

For six months, the Economic Strategic Planning Committee has been imagining Carson City at its best and working on a plan to get there.

Last month the 60 volunteers from all aspects of Carson City’s populace released the result of their work, the “Economic Vitality Strategic Plan.” They hope it makes fundamental changes in the city’s approach to its economy, especially by involving the entire community in making its dreams a reality.

The process began several years ago as a number of issues began to surface, explained City Manager John Berkich.

Those issues included a slowing of growth in state employment. Manufacturing began to languish as a result of the national economic slowdown. Gaming competition hurt tourism employment. The loss of vacant land for large developments contributed to a shift of retail activity into Douglas County.

And there was a sense by some members of the community that they have no say in the city’s future.

“We began to see that Carson City was in transition from being the (region’s) center of commerce and industry,” Berkich said, “from having the strength of being the capital.”

“How are we going to move forward in 2002 and beyond in a positive way for the city?” asked Ron Weisinger, executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority and participant on the Economic Strategic Planning Committee. “Unless we have a strong work force and companies that are also paying sales tax, we’re not going to go anywhere.”

With a state grant in hand, the city invited its citizens to participate in developing an economic plan for the future. Charles Long was hired to facilitate the planning process.

The Economic Strategic Planning Committee began meeting in January and divided itself into three task forces — Economic Development, Corridor Strategies, and Downtown Strategies — to focus on specific issues.

The team’s recommendations were divided into five general goals:

— Goal 1: Build partnerships for ongoing involvement and accountability of all sectors in economic development.

Partnerships in Goal 1 focus on various sectors within the city, including business, education, and government.

— Goal 2: Strengthen key economic sectors that provide primary employment to the community.

“Primary employment” is defined as jobs that add to the economy instead of depend on it. Retail — nurtured by city government because it provides the sales tax that funds government operations — tends to depend on the economy and responds up and down with the economy. Such employers as the state, manufacturing and health care are slower to respond to downturns.

— Goal 3: Develop regional cooperative relationships focusing on issues of commonality with adjacent counties and the state.

— Goal 4: Achieve the economic, physical and aesthetic revitalization of the downtown area by encouraging tourism, local business development and the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage.

The team had a broader definition of “downtown” than the city’s redevelopment district. The Economic Development Vitality Plan considers downtown as the Highway 395 corridor between Stewart Street and Long Street.

— Goal 5: Attract investment along the highway corridors and ensure sustained economic vitality of the corridors by encouraging well-planned development and providing for mobility and access, capitalizing on the city’s unique scenic and historic character.

The construction of the freeway bypass is ripe with opportunity for development planned to enhance the economy and aesthetics of the community. Goal 5 also deals with improvements to existing traffic and shopping corridors.

With the release of the Economic Development Vitality Plan, “the real hard work begins,” Weisinger said. “Now is the exciting part.”

To carry the plan forward, the first strategy of the first goal is creation of the Carson City Economic Vitality Coalition.

Not only is the coalition designed to work out an action plan, but to also get the community involved. In the next few months, members will present the plan to any group willing to listen.

“Here’s the skeleton,” Weisinger said of the Economic Development Vitality Plan, “please work with us in getting meat onto the skeleton.”