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Nevada Legislature means economic boom for Carson City

BEN KIECKHEFER, Associated Press

Businesses in Nevada’s capital city are looking forward to their biennial economic boost.

The 2003 state Legislature convenes Feb. 3, and the session will bring 63 legislators and some of their families, plus hundreds of staff members and lobbyists to Carson City — a welcome influx in the city of about 50,000 people.

Those new to town will need places to live, food to eat and stores in which to shop, and that proves lucrative for area businesses.

“We equate it to bringing in 200 new families moving into Carson City at one time,” said Larry Osborne, chief executive officer of the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We have estimated and tried to figure out in past sessions and everything else,” Osborne said. “Over the long haul, just the impact to Carson City businesses will be in excess of approximately $5 million to $7 million.”

Osborne said some merchants could even exceed a 50 percent increase in business compared with a non-legislative year.

Donn Leyba, general manager of Red’s Old 395 Grill a few blocks from the Legislative Building, said he’s been in contact with a number of people already planning events at his restaurant-bar.

“We want to be a gathering place for them,” Leyba said. “A place they can feel comfortable.”

As such, Red’s offers a private room with audiovisual and computer hookups for presentations, karaoke nights on Wednesdays and catering service, Leyba said.

About 700 lobbyists will register, and nearly a fourth of them will relocate to Carson City for the entire four-month session. Some also rent offices in town, according to Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The counsel bureau hires an additional 300 people for the session, 75 for counsel staff and 225 as legislative aides. Most are hired locally, and downtown businesses benefit because of the large number of people who will be working at the Legislative Building.

While Leyba said he expects about a 10 to 15 percent boost in business from the session, June Joplin, owner of Comma Coffee, said she hopes the impact on her business will be a little greater.

“I am looking forward to them sort of giving me a boost for the next two years,” Joplin said. “What I’m really hoping is that they can give me a boost so that I can put it (money) away for the winter, for the rainy-day fund. That’s what I’m hoping. I haven’t really had that luxury.”

Joplin also is devising ways to better serve people in town for the session. That includes hosting meetings and parties and being able to cater food and coffee in the Legislative Building. Joplin also said she’s looking forward to seeing some of the friends she made during the last session in 2001.

Besides more action for restaurants and bars, there’s also more business for local hotels and motels that rent out standard rooms, efficiency units and suites to legislators and lobbyists on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Jeffrey Inlow, assistant manager at The Plaza Hotel, just two blocks from the Legislative Building, said legislators and lobbyists have booked up to 80 of the 149 rooms available.

Inlow said the legislative session provides a 30 to 40 percent bump in occupancy, compared with non-legislative years.

“From a business aspect, we love them coming here,” Inlow said. “I mean, that is our life’s blood. They come here, and that’s why we are here.”

While the biennial boom is helpful to businesses, it isn’t a complete solution. Each must remain economically viable without the support of the Legislature.

“While it’s a tremendous economic boost, particularly during a very slow time of the year, it is not necessarily a windfall because no business is going to be able to survive off of just that, particularly (due to) the fact that they only meet here every other year,” Osborne said.

“It’s the icing on the cake.”