Expectations of a building boom in Lovelock went bust after Far West Technologies withdrew an offer to build a massive manufacturing plant. The plant had been expected to employ 1,500 in the production of prefab urethane-coated polystyrene building panels.
Not everyone was surprised that the plans fell through.
"They weren't credible from day one," says Andrew Benolkin, a broker with Nevada Attitude Real Estate. "They never even came up with a plan or submitted anything to the building department. He missed date after date after date. The only plans I ever saw were drawn on a napkin."
Adds Roger Mancebo, a Pershing County commissioner, "I think a lot of people didn't have a lot of faith in him because of the time it took to get going."
A contract signed with Pershing County by Bob Patterson, president of Far West Technologies, stipulated that within 24 months the company would employ 250 at an average hourly wage of $15.
"The whole idea was to bring in quality employment," says County Commissioner Dave Ayoob.
Other stipulations: Patterson had 12 months in which to commence construction. And six months from June 21 when he filed a deed on property given to his company by the county to deliver a business plan and proof of financing.
"But when the time came, he had nothing," says Mancebo.
"And we gave him another 60 days extension," says County Commissioner Darin Bloyed.
Patterson says he pulled out because the district attorney and the Pershing County Board of Commissioners wanted to change the contract.
"They wanted to see the personal financials of the lender," he says. "They wanted to see my business plan." That's not common practice, he says, and says the requirements weren't in the initial contract.
Ayoob says, however, "I talked to people in banking and economic development and they told me it is common."
And Elaine Pommerening, executive director of the Pershing County Economic Development Authority, says, "It was a performance contract. If he didn't perform, the property would revert back to the county."
Pershing County had agreed to give Patterson a 50-acre parcel in the 100-acre Pershing County Industrial Park. With land going for up to $20,000 an acre, that amounts to an incentive worth up to $1 million, says Pershing County District Attorney Jim Shirley.
The requirements included guarantees that Far West Technologies would begin construction within 12 months of filing the deed.
"Patterson parked an antiquated piece of equipment across from my company," says Bloyed, who owns Nevada Soy Products. "He came out one day just to see if it ran. He ran it back and forth over the same piece of ground for about an hour."
Bloyed says, too, the county spent what he calls "tens of thousands of dollars" to woo Far West. That included engineering and survey fees for water and earthworks. Commissioners ran interference with power, gas, water, irrigation and the railroad. Several thousand dollars went for a welcoming party at the summer groundbreaking ceremony. Patterson was even guest speaker at a high school graduation ceremony in Lovelock.
Financing finally torpedoed the project.
Patterson was required to provide proof of financing by December 21, says Mancebo, and the commission received a letter from Robertson Resources stating it would provide nearly $8.5 million for start-up costs.
Shirley, the district attorney, couldn't find a company by that name. But he spoke to James Robertson at a personal phone number in Washington State.
"He said he would provide the information requested and that the county should be patient," Shirley says. "I don't know that Robertson Resources didn't have the money."
The county agreed to give Patterson more time.
"But he blew up at us and withdrew the offer," Shirley says. "He wanted all the commissioners and me to resign."
Bloyed adds, "He said he wouldn't come to Lovelock unless the district attorney and county commissioners resigned. He told them to get the hell out of his way and let him go about his business."
"The county kept asking more and more of him," says Pommerening. "There were some miscommunications and some hard feelings."
In a Dec. 27 letter to the county, Patterson pulled the plug.
"There were a lot of hopes," says Pommerening. "A lot of speculation. A lot of property was sold to speculators."
But Benolkin had advised his real estate clients that Far West was unlikely to build the plant.
"Lovelock really took off about two years ago," he says, but Patterson's plans had nothing to do with it. "Reno and California investors wanted to invest here when the vast majority had never heard of Far West Technologies."
Mancebo, who's also a sales agent at Johnson Realty, agrees, citing a Reno investor who paid $1.5 million for 60 vacant lots. The reason, he says, was not that Far West was moving in, but rather because Fernley and Fallon were already built up.
"I sold six motels last year, he says. "I sold more real estate in 2005 than I did in the last 25 years." The reason? "Our prices were in the 19th century compared with elsewhere."
Meanwhile, Patterson is moving on with his plans.
"I'm not going to sit around and wait," he says. "Next week I'm looking at properties in Sparks and in Fallon."
He's also talking with Boise economic development officials about an 80-acre parcel near that city's airport. And, he says his company, RC Patterson Construction, will be producing buildings this spring at his site in Penryn, Calif.
Plans for a manufacturing plant in Texas are still on track. An Oklahoma company is interested in building with the company's materials says Patterson.
He says he's meeting with California developers wanting to build 70 homes with his pre-fab technology, and with a Los Angeles builder wanting to put up a five-story building in Sacramento.
But Shirley says, "We got a letter from the gentleman who owns the patent, saying that he wanted everyone to know that he was no longer allowing the use of his patent by Far West."
Patterson says that although Jim Cox, formerly in research and development, is no longer associated with Far West Technologies, the company has rights to use the patented urethane coating material.
"We've cleaned up some things internally and are moving forward," says Patterson. "It's not the end. Actually it's the beginning."
But it is the end for high hopes in Pershing County.
"I'm deeply saddened for all of Pershing County residents," says Bloyed. "This was a huge letdown for all of us in Lovelock, given the great expectations we all had."