2011 roller coaster year for business in Douglas County
Looking back, 2011 was a volatile year in the world of Douglas County economics. Just when the economy looked poised to rebound in late spring, unemployment took a dramatic leap, the stock market tumbled once more, economic growth literally froze, and partisan gridlock in Washington D.C. had everyone thinking, including credit rating agencies, that the nation’s mountain of debt was insurmountable.
But the later months brought better news. The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent in November. In Douglas County, it dropped to 13.3 percent – the lowest rate of the year. The holidays also brought increased consumer spending, according to most analysts. In Douglas County, taxable sales jumped more than 6 percent in October.
In the year’s peaks and valleys were individuals and businesses willing to take risks – invest, build, grow. In the grip of some of the worst economic years in Silver State history, Carson Valley became a launching pad for entrepreneurs big and small. It became a battle-ground stage for those with the mettle to pursue their dreams. In the end, there were victories, and there were defeats. Here’s a look back at some of the year’s business highlights.
Douglas County’s new economic vitality manager, Lisa Granahan, speaks with writer Joyce Hollister about the county’s Economic Vitality Strategy and Action Plan, which was adopted by county commissioners in September. The 12-year plan focuses on developing “a community to match the scenery.” It entails 12 projects in three categories: distinctive downtowns, outdoor recreation and lifestyle, and education and workforce.
A report published by John Fisher of Re/Max Realty Affiliates reveals that more houses were sold in Carson Valley in 2010 than in the previous three years, but the average sales price hit a five-year low. In 2010, approximately 597 single-family residences were sold in the Valley at an average sales price of $253,000. In 2009, approximately 548 houses were sold at an average price of $295,000. In 2008, sales totaled 462, the lowest number in the last five years, although the average sales price was $336,000.
Seven partners in a Minden company test out a new kind of fire retardant at the Minden-Tahoe Airport with the help of a Minden Air Corp fire bomber. It took four years for Versa Terra International to develop and patent two types of eco-friendly fire retardant using versanite. Their ultimate goal is to garner product approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
Carson Valley Garden & Ranch owner Rich Ziegler talks about $200,000 worth of live merchandise physically repossessed from his store. He describes a vicious cycle of borrowing to pay off more borrowing in the face of withering profits. Following the story, other small business owners come forward claiming they were hurt by CV Garden & Ranch’s default. The south Gardnerville store is still open as of this writing.
The 11th annual Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Showcase draws more than 70 local businesses and organizations and approximately 825 people to the Douglas County fairgrounds. The event’s theme for the year was “Doing business face-to-face.”
Despite rumors to the contrary, Douglas County Manager T. Michael Brown confirms that Walmart is still planning to build a 152,495-square-foot supercenter in south Gardnerville. Design of the project was approved at the end of 2010 amid a contentious debate on the store’s impact to existing businesses. Site improvements would be stalled throughout 2011 as developers and utility officials worked out water and drainage issues. Most recent projections are for Walmart to begin construction in the first or second quarter of 2012.
Carson Valley Transmission in Gardnerville turns 27. Long-time business owners Kevin and Brenda Murray discuss their good reputation for rebuilding transmissions and undertaking light general repair as well. In 1984, the couple moved to the Valley and opened CV Transmission. They’ve since weathered the wild economic swings of the last few decades, including changes in auto technology itself.
Although home sales in Carson Valley dipped slightly in the second quarter of 2011, the residential market is on solid footing without federal incentives, according to a Gardnerville real estate expert. Figures recently released by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office show the number of home sales dropped from 170 in the second quarter of 2010 to 147 in the second quarter of 2011. But the latter doesn’t include sales spurred by the federal first-time homebuyers tax credit.
Re/Max Realty Affiliates owner John Fisher confirms he’s purchased the Adaven Hotel along Highway 395 in Gardnerville, which houses Buckaroos saloon in the first floor. Plans are to convert 11 existing rooms upstairs, ranging in size from 150 to 350 square feet, into office suites.
If economic recession is judged by unemployment and not gross domestic product, then Douglas County is still in the grip of recession. In the first month of summer, the unemployment rate in Douglas County jumped from 13.3 percent to 14.5 percent. June’s rate represents the first spike in unemployment in the county during 2011. Since the high rate of 15.3 percent in January, the rate has declined steadily from 15.1 percent in February, 14.9 percent in March, 13.4 percent in April, to the low of 13.3 percent in May.
Sunridge resident Linda Finch, who has owned and operated Shelby’s Book Shoppe since 2005 (formerly Eddy Street Book Exchange), explains how the closure of Borders in north Douglas County has become an opportunity to expand her product offerings.
Doppelgangers Brew Pub and Grill off Airport Road in Minden closed its doors over the weekend. Owners cited the location and challenges with Douglas County’s sign laws as contributing factors.
A down economy hasn’t stopped one Gardnerville grocery store from investing in the future. Anyone who has been inside Raley’s in the last few months knows that the store has undertaken some massive renovations. Interior improvements include sustainable lighting and refrigeration, new restrooms, wider aisles with custom cabinetry and fixtures, several self-check-out stands, and a stained, polished concrete floor. The exterior received a facelift as well.
Partners of Sierra Eco Systems explain the science behind their low-temperature geothermal heating and cooling systems for residences and offices. By August, they have already installed a dozen systems on both sides of the Lake Tahoe Basin, including several systems in Carson Valley.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Chernock explains how the organization has budgeted $75,000 to hire North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tenn., to create a strong and identifiable brand for Carson Valley. Think “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” with cows.
Douglas County’s Tremendous Trails team, one of 12 priorities in the economic vitality plan, and the Carson Valley Trails Association have taken an important step forward by naming the Carson Valley Discovery Trail. Although completion is years out, the 100-mile loop around the entire Valley will serve as a bridge between the community and the mountains.
A double-dip recession seemingly plunging American markets into oblivion is psychosomatic – existing in the mind rather than in the objective world – according to a senior economist for Elliott D. Pollack and Company. Present volatility in the stock market, Jim Rounds argues, bears no logical relationship to the underlying economic realities of the country. The right economic data shows slow economic growth, not recession, he maintains.
Fatter pipes and bigger clouds are what Frontier Communications and its partners want to provide to the business community in Douglas County. Fatter pipes would mean more bandwidth and greater Internet speeds coming into businesses. Bigger clouds would mean more “cloud computing” capability over the proverbial network – software, monitoring, data storage – viewed as utility services rather than terminal products.
A year and a half after the Historian Inn in downtown Gardnerville closed its doors, the cornerstone hotel at the intersection of Eddy Street and Highway 395 will once again be open for business. According to the Douglas County Assessor’s website, Oceanic Gardnerville, LLC, based out of San Diego, Calif., purchased the Historian Inn from Umpqua Bank on Sept. 29 for $561,400.
Home sales are up in Carson Valley, but home prices themselves continue to slide, according to data released by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office. In the East Fork Township, which includes Carson Valley and the Topaz Lake area, the number of home sales in the third quarter of the year reached 213 – up from 144 in the same quarter of 2010. In fact, this year had the highest third-quarter total since 2005, when 322 homes were sold. But higher sales seem to have come at the cost of home values. The median sales price for the third quarter this year slipped to $180,250, down from $216,500 in the same quarter last year. In the same time period, the average sales price fell from $263,276 to $222,896.
Gardnerville resident Joel Hohenstein looks upon the many signs he’s fashioned throughout Carson Valley the same way a sculptor looks upon the statues he’s shaped for posterity. Hohenstein, 24, has been making signs since he was a boy. His parents, Terry and Tammy, owned Mac Signs before selling it about four years ago. In May, the Afghanistan veteran returned home and quickly formed a new partnership with his parents. He is now the majority owner of TNT Signs.
A well-known graphics printer has helped the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce reproduce some historical documents for Douglas County’s 150th year of existence. Fish Springs resident Mike Nelson was hired to reproduce an 1863 map showing Douglas County within the Nevada Territory and also the handwritten legislation that created the county in 1861. Nelson has owned and operated GRAfx 8 Media Group in Minden for 10 years.
A report on the dire state of gaming in Northern Nevada was countered by two areas of positive growth during a business meeting last week at Carson Valley Inn in Minden. Exports were up 25 percent the first six months of the year, according to Alan DiStefano, director of Global Business Development, Nevada Commission on Economic Development. Carl Ribaudo of Ski Lake Tahoe also reported that skiing and snowboarding at the Lake is up from a low of 2.9 million skier days in the 2008-09 season to 3.6 million skier days in the 2010-11 season.
Small shop owners in Carson Valley take the fight to big box stores on Black Friday. With clever promotions, high-quality products, and free giftwrapping services, stores like Especially For You in Gardnerville and Heartstrings Gallery and Gifts in Minden prove they’re more than capable of competing with the big boys.
Owners of a new antiques shop in downtown Gardnerville are helping to preserve pieces of the American frontier while also providing holiday shoppers a new place to find gifts. Longtime Gardnerville residents Gary and Diana Allen converted their historic property near the Highway 395 S-curve into Frontier Antiques and Collectibles. The property happens to be the Chris Dangberg house, constructed in the late 1800s.
Loyal customers of walk-in video rentals have expressed dismay over rumors that the Gardnerville Blockbuster store may soon be closing its doors. The rumors were never denied or confirmed by corporate representatives, and the store remains open. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 and was sold at auction to Dish Network last spring.
Fernley resident Wai Louie describes his acquisition of the Mandarin Gourmet in Minden, now named Louie’s Mandarin Gourmet. The 75-year-old Chinese immigrant jokes that he is living proof his Hong Kong-style of cooking is healthy.