Fernley a hot spot for construction

Although construction activity has been stagnant throughout northern Nevada, commercial building activity buzzes in Fernley.

The town of nearly 20,000 residents has $31.2 million in commercial projects under construction, with plans in review for another $3.6 million, says Community Development Director Fred Turnier. Additionally, there are more than $4 million of public works projects under way with another $13 million planned.

The volume of construction activity is a blessing to Lyon County, which had a state-high unemployment rate of 16.5 percent in December.

The largest project under way in Fernley is the $21.2 million Lyon County School District's intermediate school being built by general contractor Rafael Construction of Las Vegas. Other big-ticket projects include the $4.1 million Comfort Inn Hotel on the western end of town and the $4.2 million Big Wheel Truck Stop and Casino at Truck Inn Way. Both are scheduled to open soon.

Improvements in the permitting process have helped spur development in the area.

Stan Thomas, vice president of sales and marketing for Wade Development, says when Southwest Gas Corporation submitted plans for a new building at Wade's Crossroads Commerce Center, permitting for the project was approved in just 17 days.

"That is a big accomplishment for the City of Fernley," Thomas says. "Companies need to move quickly and can't be held up with permits."

Adds Turnier, a former planning director for the City of Reno: "We are doing everything we can to streamline the development process and be more user-friendly for the development community.

"The bottom line for us is jobs," Turnier adds. "We are looking at job creation in addition to construction jobs."

And with job creation, the area's stagnant residential building sector may come back to life as well. Once one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, residential development in Lyon County has been drowning under the weight of high numbers of foreclosures.

Nearly 12 percent of the households in Lyon County, which includes Fernley, Dayton and Yerington, were involved at some stage of the foreclosure process during 2009, the second-highest percentage in the state, says RealtyTrac, a foreclosure tracking service headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

But sales activity on residential real estate in the area is picking up steam, says Darcy Adcock-Ingle, realtor with Coldwell Banker Select Realty. There currently are 96 homes for sale in Fernley, down from 150 in January.

"Out of the 7,000 rooftops that we have, that is a pretty small amount," Adcock-Ingle says. "Our inventory has decreased quite a bit."

Adcock-Ingle says foreclosed homes and short sales will continue to add to inventory levels in the coming months, but she's seeing multiple offers on some properties and an overall brisk sales pace.

"To me that says the market is trying to recover," she says. "But it all depends on jobs. As some of the commercial and industrial improves, that will be a big indicator for residential building to start again."

Turnier says community economic development leaders are actively recruiting manufacturing and warehousing companies to the area, touting Fernley's low land prices and availability of a ready workforce. Thomas says Fernley and neighboring Fallon offer a population base of nearly 70,000 people, many hungry for work.

Additionally, he says, recent completion of the new interchange at Exit 50 along Interstate 80 and the eventual Highway 50 connector will better position the area's industrial offerings.

"If we get a company that comes in and creates 200 or 300 jobs, we are building homes again," Thomas says. "If we start building homes, things come alive again. We are excited about it and are hoping that it has hit bottom and things are starting to move again."


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