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Western Nevada economy rebounds despite pandemic, business panel says

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Kurt Hildebrand

A panel of experts from real estate, banking and construction painted a positive economic outlook for Western Nevada on Wednesday saying the economy here is rebounding despite the pandemic.

And a significant reason, they agreed, is the flight of California businesses to the region.

“California is doing us a big favor right now,” said Northern Nevada Development Authority Director Rob Hooper. “They’re pushing lot of people our way.”

He was joined by Brad Bonkowski of NAI Alliance representing the real estate industry, Aaron West of the Nevada Builders Alliance, Bill Myles of Myles Construction and Ty Nebe of Plumas Bank.

“The California migration is on,” said Bonkowski. “We get calls every day from companies in California that want to relocate. ”

West said the housing market is, “as hot as it’s ever been” and there just isn’t enough inventory to meet the demand.

“What keeps me very positive is the amount of growth coming to this area because of California,” said Nebe.

He said not only are Californians moving here, Southern Californians are moving to nearby parts of Northern California.

But all expressed concern about what might happen to the Sierra region’s economy when the federal cash stops coming. They also expressed concern for the small retailers and businesses such as restaurants and bars that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdowns.

“Small businesses and restaurants seem to be taking the brunt of the impact because of the restrictions,” said Bonkowski.

He said the region’s economy is buoyed by the large number of jobs economic development has brought to the area.

“That’s going to change when the stimulus money runs out,” he said.

In addition, he expressed concern that the office market may suffer depending on how many workers now working from home return to the office.

“Efficiency dictates a large portion of workers will come back to the formal office site but even if 15 percent of workers can work from home it’s going to have a huge impact on the office market,” he said.

Myles said the coronavirus has caused some major problems for the construction industry. He said when 80 percent of contractors in the country were having problems getting skilled workers before the pandemic hit. He said some one on a flooring subcontractor’s crew caught the virus at a hospitality project in the Tahoe Basin, “so the entire crew of flooring subs disappeared off our site for 10 days.”

West said the pandemic has also disrupted supply chains for contractors. He said lumber prices have doubled this year and appliances and other materials are much harder to get.

All, however, expressed confidence that the area economy will emerge from this period stronger and more diversified than ever.