No surprise Douglas residents spend out of county |

No surprise Douglas residents spend out of county

by Sharon Carter

More than half the money residents spent last year for goods and services went to businesses outside Douglas county.

According to a study conducted by University of Nevada, Reno Professor Tom Harris and Kathy Halbardier of UNR’s College of Business, of the more than $325 million Douglas residents spent for automobiles and clothing, groceries, sporting goods, computers and most everything else – less than half, $171.5 million, was spent within the county.

The news came as no big surprise to the two dozen county officials and interested citizens who attended Harris’ presentation of preliminary numbers Tuesday. (Although, according to Commissioner Don Miner, Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen hoped the number would be less than $150 million and now owes Miner dinner. Miner had wagered the number would be greater than $150 million.)

n The good news. “But, the good news is that losses in sales are actually down, percentage-wise, from the early 1990s, when it was estimated Douglas businesses lost close to 70 percent of potential sales to businesses in Carson City and Reno,” County Manager Dan Holler said Thursday. “We’re doing better. Our growth is a factor. And, while the loss percentage has gone down, overall sales have gone up.”

Holler said the value of the Harris study, conducted over the past five months at the behest of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, is that it identifies areas for potential retail growth in the county.

“Douglas’ commercial sector is changing,” Harris said Tuesday when he unveiled the earliest numbers. “Retail is a growing segment, there are more opportunities for small businesses.”

n Areas of opportunity. Harris said retail areas that have 80 percent leakage (the term economists use to identify losses of potential sales) can be specific areas of opportunity the county can explore and possibly encourage commercial growth in.

Those areas currently include general merchandise sales (including department stores), clothing and shoe stores, major and small appliance sales, new and used auto sales, sporting goods and computer and computer software sales. And looking at national and regional trends, Harris sees potential for growth in selected health and personal services as well.

Harris’ (and others) 1994 update of the 1990 report and and his 1998 study, both focused on actual and lost sales in Douglas County, but, Holler said, were based on two different sources of information, which makes it hard to draw strict conclusions.

“We’ll asking Prof. Harris to compare like areas for the final report, which we’re hoping to have for the Jan. 14 commission meeting,” Holler said.

n Adding to the picture. He said when an upcoming Metro Business Activity Report is presented, officials will have a clearer picture of the county’s economic future.

“The MBA report will add meat,” Holler said. “It will include demographics, traffic studies and sales tax by zip codes (what people in different areas buy), so we’ll be better able to determine what to do to reduce leakage to Carson City, Reno and South Lake Tahoe, without cannibalizing our existing businesses.

“This tells us, from a development standpoint, what particular sectors we should target. It also gives us a feel for where there is potential growth for revenue – for example, we know we’re losing about $21 million in food and grocery sales. If we know how much of that is from the North County residents who shop in Carson City, we could determine if we need a grocery store at the north end of the county.”

n Ahead of schedule. Officials who attended the Tuesday presentation agreed that Douglas County is on the right track by encouraging commercial growth at the Carson City border.

“In the initial redevelopment projections, we figured we were two to three years out with respect to commercial development in the North County, the consultants said 2001,” Holler said. “The fact that the developer is in serious negotiations with two big retailers today – they’ve called the county about signage requirements and we’re looking at modifying the ordinance for readability at certain highway speeds – brings it that much closer.”

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