UNR projects mean big money, jobs | NevadaAppeal.com

UNR projects mean big money, jobs

The Associated Press

RENO — Ten major construction projects scheduled to break ground at the University of Nevada over the next five years should generate more than $460 million for the Reno-area economy, industry analysts say.

The $275 million in projects should create about 7,600 jobs, said John Madole, executive director of the Nevada Chapter of Associated General Contractors.

“It’s a real shot in the arm for Reno and the entire area,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I don’t have to tell you what we’ve been suffering through during the last five years.”

Of UNR’s 10 projects, one is nearly finished, three have broken ground and the others are scheduled to begin site preparation by 2019.

A $20 million addition to the school’s world-renowned earthquake laboratory is almost done. Construction recently began at an apartment complex for graduate students and families, and work will start soon for a new residence hall.

Next up are renovation projects at Mackay Stadium and a student achievement center. The rest of the lineup includes a student fitness center scheduled to break ground next year and plans to have a new science and engineering building within five years.

Brian Bonnenfant, project manager at the Center for Regional Studies at UNR, said the center did a study in September to analyze the overall economic impact to the region.

Based on an estimated $275 million to build the 10 projects, Bonnenfant said, secondary spending and household spending will add $462.9 million to the economy, although he acknowledged not all that construction money will necessarily stay in the region.

“It’s a tremendous amount of money,” he said. “If you look at the industries that support construction, they include wiring and fixtures and a number of other businesses that will be impacted by construction.”

Washoe County has a large inventory of commercial and investment space, so there isn’t much construction work on those types of projects, Bonnenfant said.

“UNR is pretty much providing the construction industry with some nice bridging in some lean years, and the construction industry is still pretty lean,” he said.

UNR is projecting an increase of 4,000 students, bringing enrollment to 22,000, in the next seven years. By the end of the decade, that should mean an additional $145 million a year spent locally on tuition, fees, books, room, board and transportation, he said.

“With more students, you’ll see more bars, restaurants, pizza places and iPads and computers because those industries stand to gain in the region,” he said.

Of all these projects, only the proposed new science and engineering building will require state funding — a total of about $500,000. The rest is funded by student fees, philanthropic gifts, money from other property sales and $15 million in federal funding for the earthquake lab expansion.

UNR President Marc Johnson said that’s a big difference from the last construction boom on the campus, when the state financed $500 million in projects from 2004-13. They included the $108 million Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, the $77 million Center for Molecular Medicine and the $59 million Joe Crowley Student Union.

“We are continuing to meet our objectives,” Johnson said, “but we are not waiting around for the state to fund everything.”