Development in Douglas County: Focus is on economic diversity
Editor’s note: this is the second in a four-part series on developments in Douglas County.
Members of the business community and county officials are focusing on industrial and manufacturing development as the primary way to achieve economic diversity.
“The county must diversify its economic base because of competition in tourism which has affected our ability to generate revenue,” said Commissioner Don Miner.
He said businesses like manufacturing will create non-tourism jobs and revenues.
— The workers
Many in the business community feel that they can capitalize on the large population base of the county.
According to the master plan, in 1995 about 8 percent of the 35,000 county residents were employed in manufacturing with 60 percent employed in the service industry including casino workers.
Sandy Cable, executive director of the Business Council of Douglas County, suggests that the county attract more manufacturing businesses to provide jobs for the area that has become a large bedroom community of Carson City, Tahoe and Reno. Many Carson Valley residents work outside the area.
With the county supporting the basic governmental services required by the large population and few business revenues outside of flat tourism dollars, a tax inequity is created shorting the general fund, she added.
Mary Davis, chair of the council’s Business Resource Group, said statistics show that people who go out of the area to work will spend their money in the same area in terms of gas, food and at other retail outlets.
“Not only do we lose the workers, we lose their discretionary income,” she said.
Cable said attracting manufacturing and research and development companies to locate in the county will keep residents working in the area.
“The retail businesses will follow,” she said adding that sales tax is one of the primary sources of revenue for government.
Dave Williams, owner of the Williams Ridge Technology Park, said he thinks that his business park – less than a mile off Highway 395 south of Gardnerville – is in an ideal location for accessibility to the workforce with a large portion of the county’s population living in the Ranchos.
Raymond Case, senior vice president of finance and administration for Bently Nevada, said most companies moving to the area will bring many of their workers with them and hire some local.
“We’ve seen them be able to hire the people they need (when relocating),” he said.
He said the majority of the companies he predicts will move to the area will be from California.
“We are becoming California East,” said Cynthia Taylor of RE/MAX.
She and other Realtors said that most of their new home buyers are coming from California.
The estimated 35,000 people who live in the county are what the master plan calls the “potential workforce.”
However, “Many of the residents are (retired), who are not in the workforce,” Case said.
The Realtors said about 50 percent of their new house sales went to retirees.
— The businesses
Developers are answering the call for economic diversity in the Carson Valley. Much industry development is locating within business parks.
“Industrial developers want to be near other industry because they use the same supplier networks and transportation routes,” said John Doughty, county planning/building/economic development manager.
Bently Nevada Science Park is one of several business parks developing in Douglas County.
The 290-acre park, two miles off of Buckeye Road, has been in the works since 1981, Case said.
Already two companies in addition to Bently Nevada are residents of the park.
Tentative plans for the park are a 45-acre commercial district in the center which includes, a hotel, day care, health club, museum and office and retail buildings.
“We haven’t decided whether we will be the seller or developer of the commercial section,” Case said
The idea of the commercial district is so that, “people wouldn’t have to leave the park to go to lunch, an office supply store or an ATM,” Case said.
Under construction in the commercial district is Western Nevada Community College Douglas Campus. Don Bently, owner of Bently Nevada, donated 10 acres of land with improvements to the college, which is expected to be open for classes in the fall.
“The hotel will be a businessman’s hotel, preferably without gaming,” Case said.
He said company officials thought gaming was a distraction to Bently’s employees and trainees.
Bently Nevada, employing 850 workers in the area and 1,350 worldwide, brings in 400 people annually for training who could use the hotel.
Workers at the industrial complex will be able to access the 10-acre park already at the site with lush green grass, shade trees and picnic tables.
“Our vision is that the science park will be a healthy, wholesome environment,” Case said.
He said he didn’t have a time line for any phase of the development. Construction could begin as early as this summer depending on building permit acquisition.
The periphery of the commercial district will be sold for development by industry and manufacturing such as software development.
Case said each company that will locate at Science Park will “be looked at for its own merit.”
As for attracting businesses to make the move, Case said he thought Bently’s strong business network and established company were selling points.
Companies that are relocating are “looking to reduce the risk of surprise,” he said calling developing the park a matter of synergism. “We are a global company and do quite well from Douglas County.”
Case said up to 4,000 people could be employed at the park when fully developed. However, it would depend on the types of firms that move into the park.
Case said the development of Bently Science Park is a benefit to the community.
“We’ve definitely made this part of the Valley more available,” he said referring to the investment of infrastructure.
He said Don Bently, owns 15,000 acres in Douglas County including 50 percent of the Dangberg holdings and a recent $2.88 million purchase of half of the Fred Dressler estate.
Williams Ridge Technology Park is another of Douglas County’s emerging industrial parks.
Davis, also Williams Ridge project director for owner Dave Williams.
Williams started the park with Aervoe-Pacific, a lubricant and paint manufacturer, and already three companies have joined him in phase I of the 238-acre complex.
Plans for the seven-acre phase II of the Ridge include a 35,000- square-foot office building with a gym and day care. Directly behind the offices within walking distance will be a 30,000- square-foot warehouse and manufacturing facility.
Williams Ridge will invest upwards of $5 million in phase II.
Davis said the Ridge is willing to customize and lease buildings for companies relocating to the park.
Davis is encouraging technical and manufacturing business to move to the park.
“I think we need that kind of business,” she said. “We need to diversify our tax base in Douglas County and provide for a reliable alternative to the source of revenue we use now which is gaming.”
The Carson Valley Business Park in Johnson Lane already has five business located in the park and eight lots sold.
The 340-acre project will have 80 to 100 lots when completely built out in 10 to 15 years, according to Gary Cook, managing partner in the park.
Cook said he expects that 2,000 to 3,000 people will be employed at businesses contained in the park, drawing workers for Carson City as well as the Carson Valley because of the mid-valley location.
He said the location is also ideal for it proximity to the Minden/Tahoe Airport and the Reno/Tahoe Airport.
Another area with the potential for growth in industrial developments identified by the master plan is the airport.
Meridian Business Park and the county own much of the land near the airport.
Next issue: A look at some residential construction and planned communities emerging in Douglas County.