A look back at the business news of 2012
December 24, 2012
Apocalypse notwithstanding, 2012 was a transitional year for the Carson Valley business community in many ways.It was the year that unemployment, despite a spike at the beginning of year, steadily fell over the months, hitting 11.2 percent by November — the lowest rate in three years. As more unemployed found work, taxable sales among county merchants continued to climb. While double-digit gains in several categories were certainly impressive, they had to be considered in the wider context of the recession itself, and just how far sales had fallen. Such figures throughout the year suggested the economy was in transition, between recession and recovery. It was a better position to be in than years prior, but still a fragile position, as demonstrated by the jitters generated every time Washington headed toward the brink. At the local level, we saw new businesses, both big and small, become part of our community. A nutritional supplement company with growth in international markets made the move to Minden. An advanced manufacturing firm with ties to NASA relocated to Gardnerville. Every job strengthened our local economy that much more.This was also the year we said good-bye to one of the Valley’s preeminent businessmen, Don Bently, who passed away on Oct. 1. Reflecting on his pioneering work, from machine monitoring to biodiesel, we experienced sadness and appreciation at the same time. We also heard from his son, Chris Bently, heir to several Minden companies, who laid out a vision for the future.Of course, in the throes of transition, 2012 was the year of Walmart. Not only did the superstore in south Gardnerville take shape against the horizon, but its arrival fueled discussion, and continues to fuel discussion, on how best to adapt to the many changes sure to come.Jan. 1Douglas County businesses are heading into the new year with two positive economic signs — a sizable jump in taxable sales, and the lowest unemployment rate of the year. “I think the data’s consistent with what we’ve been hearing and feeling, which is that this fall and holiday season felt a little bit stronger for a lot of our small businesses,” said Bill Chernock, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority. “I don’t think it’s universal, but enough businesses felt it to indicate things have gotten a little better.”Jan. 11A convenience store chain has purchased 11 acres of the defunct Minden Gateway Center at the intersection of highways 88 and 395, according to the Douglas County Assessor’s Office. On Dec. 30, 2011, Maverik Inc. purchased six parcels totaling 10.99 acres from SA Challenger Inc. The price of the sale was nearly $3 million. Wyoming-based Maverik Inc. owns and operates hundreds of convenience stores and gas stations throughout the intermountain west. The company’s website says that “Maverik Store 460” will soon be coming to Minden.Jan. 29While this winter’s unusually dry weather relented last week with several feet of snow falling during the weekend, businesses in South Lake Tahoe aren’t breathing easy just yet. With low snow levels bringing less visitor traffic to the region than usual for this time of year, various sectors of business have felt the impact in different ways.Feb. 3Charged with two different economic missions, the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority is planning to give each arm under its umbrella more attention in the form of management. Leaders of the organization announced that Executive Director Bill Chernock will be focusing solely on the chamber, and that a new director will be hired to oversee the visitors authority. They hope to advertise, interview and fill the position by springtime.Feb. 27The new year has brought a new owner to the Historian Inn in downtown Gardnerville along with some big plans to upgrade the cornerstone property between Highway 395 and Eddy Street that closed in the middle of the recession. Deb Pierrel, co-owner of Cl Hospitality, announced her company’s acquisition of the hotel in a press release. March 2As the cost of regular gasoline in Carson Valley approaches $4 a gallon, businesses from Testa Motorsports in Minden to A Wildflower in Garnderville are seeing higher fuel costs soak their bottom line. At the same time, Bently Biofuels, a Minden-based producer of biodiesel, is maintaining a competive edge against petroleum products.March 12A spike in unemployment in Douglas County dashes hopes of a New Year recorvery. According to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the unemployment rate in the county jumped from 13.8 percent in December to 14.5 percent in January, with a total labor force of 21,900. Total employment actually increased from 17,930 workers to 18,720, but total unemployment jumped from 2,860 to 3,180. Fortunately, in the following month of February, the high unemployment rate fell nearly an entire percentage point to 13.9 percent. The rate would continue to decline througout the year. April 4It was more than two years ago that a debate raged in the small precincts of Gardnerville about the large effects a giant retailer like Walmart would have on the community. Last week, Douglas County finally issued a building permit for the 152,373-square-foot superstore that will be constructed behind Les Schwab Tires in south Gardnerville. According to the permit issued by Douglas County Community Development, the estimated value of the building, to be located at 1511 Grant Ave., is $4.3 million. April 13Bay Area-based Life Enhancement Products, Inc., announces plans to relocate to Minden by Aug. 1. A producer of nutritional supplmements, the company plans to hire 18 people in the areas of customer service, shipping, quality control, reception and manufacturing. Company founder Will Block explains that Nevada offers a lower cost of living, low tax structure and freedom from excessive regulation.April 18Homes sales in Carson Valley are maintaining momentum, while prices appear to have bottomed out. According to data released by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office, home sales in the first quarter of 2012 in the East Fork Township hit 162. The median sales price slipped to its lowest level in a decade, coming in at $169,950, and the average sales price came in at $215,410.April 22About 1,000 people and more than 70 businesses and nonprofits attended the 12th annual Business Showcase on Thursday, which was organized by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce. “In our business, we can’t get someone to purchase our service unless we’ve met them face-to-face first,” said Emily Buntin, community marketing director for Carson Valley Senior Living. May 3The Carson Valley Visitors Authority has announced the hiring of a new executive director. A.J. Frels is scheduled to start on May 24. Bill Chernock will remain executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce.May 18When the unemployment rate in Douglas County shot above 13 percent in 2009, it would stay above that threshold until the spring of 2012. According to data released by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the unemployment rate in Douglas County dropped to 12.4 percent in April — an entire percentage point from 13.4 percent the previous month, and the first time the rate has fallen below 13 percent in the last two and a half years.May 23With guidance from Douglas County and a $67,000 grant issued through the Western Nevada Development District, a team of consultants is studying the feasibility of a business science park in Carson Valley. The team defines a cluster as a “geographic concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers and associate institutions” that increases productivity and makes it easier for local companies to compete nationally and globally. Such a project was identified in the county’s Economic Vitality Strategy and Action Plan, which was adopted in 2010.May 29Smith’s Food & Drug announces the “re-grand” opening of its $3 million remodeled store in Gardnerville. Smith’s executives, Gardnerville Town Board and the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce will convene for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. May 31AnC Precision announces the relocation of their company from Southern California to Gardnerville. This move took approximately eight months and added 24 jobs to the local economy. AnC is a global leader in advanced manufacturing and engineering with two distinct product lines, including high-tech parts for the Mars Rover, NASA and other government entities. June 6Each block stacked in the bulwarks of the new 152,373-square-foot Walmart Supercenter in south Gardnerville is another invisible weight pressing on the town’s three existing grocery stores. But how Raley’s, Smith’s and Scolari’s have been responding to the giant contender, with aggresive marketing and massive remodels, may indicate that the town is not too small for four grocery retailers. June 8The groundwork is being laid for massive commercial development clustered around the new Walmart Supercenter in south Gardnerville. On Tuesday, Gardnerville Town Board members unanimously approved a land division application requesting a 22.13-acre tentative commercial subdivision as part of the Virginia Ranch Planned Development and Specific Plan. Conceptual maps show 11 buildings totaling 125,232 square feet clustered on the southern and western flanks of the 152,373-square-foot Walmart currently under construction.June 131862 David Walley’s will be celebrating its 150th anniversary this summer. The resort was purchased in the fall of 2010 by Summerwinds Resort owners Pat Joyce and Dawn Joyce and partners Darren Abbott and Rich Dowdell. Walley’s was originally built in 1862, but still carries the founders’ vision as an elegant spa, luxury resort and fine-dining establishment, the new owners said in a press release. June 20Gardnerville resident Rob Simpson discusses a milestone for his small business. He just celebrated the 40th anniversary of Napa Auto Parts in downtown Gardnerville and chalks up this success to his faith, his employees, and his customers.June 29Carson Valley’s business and medical communities reacted differently following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. “The big problem up until today was uncertainty — what businesses will be facing in how to budget for 2013 and 2014. What the decision has done, from a business point of view, is to narrow that a little bit in terms of being able to get a handle on future costs,” said Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Chernock.July 6As bargain housing inventory in Carson Valley disappears, demand from increased sales appears to be driving home values back up. In the second quarter of 2012 within the East Fork Township, home prices reached their highest level in a year. The median sales price jumped from $169,950 in the first quarter of the year to $203,500 in the last three months ending June 30. The average sales price jumped from $215,410 in the first three months of the year to $236,919 in the second quarter — a 10 percent increase.July 10Yerington-based onion grower Peri & Sons has agreed to pay a total of $2.338 million in back wages to 1,365 workers, along with a civil money penalty of $500,000, for violations under the temporary agricultural worker visa program. A federal investigation determined that workers employed by Peri & Sons involved in irrigation, as well as harvesting, packing and shipping onions sold in grocery stores nationwide, were not paid properly for work performed. July 18A drop in gaming win in the month of May, as recently reported by the state, is another reminder for local casino operators that the old way of doing business might be just that — a thing of the past. “It’s very obvious that gaming in Northern Nevada has been in the doldrums for at least the last three years now, and that despite occasional little bumps one month, the trend is flat and slightly down overall in the area,” said Bill Henderson, sales director for Carson Valley Inn in Minden.July 27As the 152,373-square-foot Walmart superstore rises in south Gardnerville, more chain retailers are popping up in Carson Valley. New arrivals to the area in the first half of the year include AutoZone, which has been stocking shelves in the former Blockbuster building, Dollar General, which is setting up shop in the Gardnerville Ranchos, and Maverik Inc., which is preparing to build a new gas station and convenience store in Minden.July 29Local salsa star Fran Pritchard is moving up the food chain in a big way. The owner of Gardnerville-grown Killer Salsa announced this week that her product would be expanding into Walmarts in Las Vegas and select Walmart stores in Sacramento, San Francisco, Napa, Modesto, Fresno and San Jose, totaling more than 50 new stores. Aug. 3The outlying frontiers of Douglas County and Eastern California are being connected to the modern world through a $1.3 million partnership between a large telecom corporation and the federal government. Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski toured the Eastern Sierra to highlight broadband expansion projects in Yerington, Coleville, Topaz Lake, and portions of Alpine County.A year’s worth of creative effort, funded by $75,000 in room tax revenue, has produced three alliterative adjectives — rugged, relaxed and reachable — presented over the soaring wing-tips of a new eagle logo. It’s the rough draft of Carson Valley’s new brand, what visitors authority officials hope will sell the area as a premier destination in the minds of prospective visitors.Aug. 10The summer’s intensifying drought takes a toll on Carson Valley agriculture. Fred Stodieck, whose family has ranched and farmed acreage near Waterloo Lane since 1868, reports that hay harvests are down about a third.Aug. 18Danny’s Ironwood Grill in Minden closes its doors. It actually opened as a Denny’s in 1994, becoming Danny’s Ironwood Grill in 2003. Although there was no sign of life inside the restaurant on Thursday, the marquee on the side of the building had a pointed message: “Closed / Obama casualty / Thanks for all the years.” Sept. 7A highly specialized start-up in Minden plans to have its “stain technology” in international markets by 2014, though their products have nothing to do with carpet cleaning. The stain technology of HCI Sciences, LLC, is used in lab testing to diagnose cancer cells and diseased tissues in a field known as anatomical pathology. Sept. 12One of Douglas County’s primary industries was shedding jobs before the recession hit in 2007, according to State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle. He reported that the county lost 2,075 jobs between 2001 and 2007 in the accommodation and food service industry — in casinos, restaurants and hotels. The same sector continued to shed 2,128 more jobs between 2007 and 2010, in the heart of the recession, and then added 112 jobs between 2010 and 2011.Sep. 19“In today’s economy, in today’s changing world, can you just show up?” international speaker, author and business strategist Barbara Wold asked a gathering at Carson Valley Inn last week. “No, not at all.” Wold was the featured speaker during the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce’s proactive seminar entitled, “How to profit from Walmart’s arrival.” About 30 business owners, representatives and interested residents attended one of two sessions.Sept. 26Susan Davila has been appointed as the chief executive officer of Carson Valley Medical Center in Gardnerville. In her role, Davila will oversee the operations of the hospital, the seven clinics operated by CVMC, and the 325 employees of the organization. Main Street Gardnerville has launched a so-called cash mob campaign as a consumer-driven economic stimulus program of sorts. “It’s comparable to a flash mob, but instead of singing and dancing, cash mobbers join together and commit to spending $10-20 at a predetermined local business,” said Main Street Program Manager Paula Lochridge.The Douglas County School District has been working with Douglas County Economic Vitality, GE Energy and other private and public partners to grow STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in a way that will bear fruit in the future.Outrage is growing among businesses neighboring the new Walmart Superstore in south Gardnerville. As if the existential threat posed by the world’s largest retailer weren’t enough, infrastructure for the project, specifically a new median along Highway 395, has blocked access to a number of businesses off Service Drive.Oct. 3Family, friends, employees and residents are mourning the loss of a man who fundamentally changed Carson Valley with his prolific and prescient business endeavors as well as his conservation efforts. “Pioneer” was one of many words used this week to describe Don Bently, who died Monday in his Minden home at the age of 87. Other commonly invoked words were “visionary” and “brilliant.” Oct. 4Jim Rounds, vice president and senior economist with Elliott D. Pollack and Company, predicted that Nevada will not reach a full recovery in terms of employment until 2017, which means that Nevada will have suffered an entire decade of economic decline since the recession began in 2007.Oct. 10According to data released by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office, the average sales price of a home in the East Fork Township jumped to $255,430 in third quarter of the year, and the median sales price rose to $207,025. Both figures are the highest of the calendar year thus far, which saw a low average price of $215,410 and median price of $169,950 in the first quarter of 2012.Oct. 26A new physical business science park is not needed in Douglas County, but existing businesses could be better aligned through infrastructure, workforce, education and supply chain, and collectively marketed together as a “virtual park” across the world wide web, according to results of a $67,000 grant-funded study.Oct. 27The end of the summer season was generally good for Douglas County merchants. According to the Nevada Department of Taxation, county merchants raked in $54.9 million in taxable sales for the month of August versus $49.6 million in the same month the year before — a 10.7 percent increase.Nov. 1Warren Reed Insurance is celebrating its 65 birthday this fall, making it one of the oldest businesses in Carson Valley. The operation started in 1947 when Warren Reed, a truck driver for the Minden Flour Milling Co., started “peddling insurance” in the living room of his Eighth Street house. Nov. 2Walmart announces that it will hire approximately 225 associates to work at the new superstore slated to open next year in Gardnerville. The R-C publishes an interview with Christopher Bently, heir to Bently family companies. “I am the sole heir, and it is a huge responsibility. I’ve had my whole life to prepare for it,” he says. “I’m not trying to fill my dad’s shoes. I’m trying to walk in my own.”Nov. 12Carson Valley Inn unveils plans for an outdoor events center to accommodate everything from concerts with 800 guests to more intimate settings like weddings or class reunions. Nov. 21With the departure of Michael Hohl from Minden last week, Carson Valley no longer has a car dealership to call its own. Although park-and-sell operations pop up occasionally, an actual sales office with human beings walking balloon-decorated rows of automobiles may be a thing of the past in Douglas County.Dec. 8Baker Doug Russell discusses the closure of Russell’s Mercantile storefront in Minden after eight years of operation. He emphasizes that the business is not going under, and that the family’s popular food products will be available in a different format.Dec. 19Local business managers address the possibility of going over the “fiscal cliff.” Referring to looming spending cuts and tax increases at the federal level, the phrase becomes a symbol of Washington’s dysfunction.