Lack of growth dominates Douglas forecast

If a community is not growing, it's dying, said President of Nevada Association of Realtors Rob Wigton.

"Whether you love growth or hate it, there is no denying that a lack of it has caused many businesses to close their doors," he said.

Wigton was one of seven business leaders and government officials speaking at the Douglas Today Forecast 2008 Wednesday night at Carson Valley Inn.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Wigton. "But I believe strongly that the worst is behind us, and we are heading for stability, especially in our local housing market."

Wigton said home values would start appreciating, and demand for real estate would rebound, coupled with low interest rates.

"We will continue to be an area that people will strongly consider when retiring or making that second home purchase," he said. "We have all the desirable features that folks are looking for in a community."

Douglas County Manager Dan Holler was less optimistic, saying the 2008-09 budget was not looking good.

"It's going to be a very difficult budget season," he said. "In a down economy, our service demands go up. Our social services department is up about 23 percent in terms of clients and people coming in."

Holler said it's difficult to keep governmental services alive in the face of decreasing or stagnant revenue sources.

"In January, I think we did three building permits," he said. "Sales taxes have dropped. Our room tax revenue and gas tax revenue are flat."

Holler said creating job growth is key to recovery.

"How do you import wealth into your community?" he said. "We have worked with businesses looking to locate in either Douglas County or China. We are a global marketplace."

But for business to thrive, Douglas County needs a young, educated workforce, Holler said.

"What are we doing to keep people locally trained and educated and wanting to be here?" he said. "A key issue as we move forward is looking at the foundation we have in place."

Holler said that means business parks, Western Nevada College and an educated workforce, available land, the infrastructure to support it, and also affordable housing for employees of businesses who want to move here.

"Douglas County is seen as a safe place, a good community to be in," he said. "When things are bad, it's sometimes the best time for people to sit down and look at where we want to be."

That includes looking for new revenue sources.

"Some of the major updates for next year aren't pleasant," said Douglas County Community Development Director Mimi Moss. "We'll be looking at an impact fee for roads. We'll be looking at increasing building fees, planning and engineering fees."

Moss said although residential growth is suffering, there are promising commercial projects in the works, including medical buildings, Bently Biofuels' new alternative fuel station, the Minden Gateway and the Waterloo centers.

Pete Coates, sustainable building advocate appointed by the U.S. Green Building Council, said the right kind of growth can create jobs and revenue while protecting the environment.

"Sustainable growth is not confined to just the number of buildings we put up," he said. "Sustainable growth is about integrating all the aspects of environmental responsibility, which include our sites, our water efficiencies, our energy efficiencies, the indoor air quality of our buildings, the location of the buildings and the density of the structures we're building.

"It's our responsibility to maintain an ecological balance in our own community," he said. "The U.S. Green Building Council does not advocate mandates. We want initiatives. We want to redefine sustainable growth to the point where we see a healthy initiative that sustains the economy, sustains our jobs and sustains the tax base."


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