National retailers look at population, not income, in area

Winnemucca is growing, but its retail landscape still is dominated by locally owned retailers rather than national chains.

It's not that Humboldt County residents don't have money to spend.

U.S. Census data shows the median household income in the county stood at nearly $60,000 in 2010, a figure that ranks Humboldt County third among Nevada's counties.

The average wage per job, meanwhile, totals more than $48,000 a figure that's boosted by the $83,700 annual average in the fast-growing mining sector.

But Patrick Gray, chairman of the Humboldt Development Authority board of directors, says the town's population less than 10,000 just doesn't warrant much of a look from national retailers, even if Winnemucca residents are clamoring for additional services.

"We really aren't getting requests from big box retailers," Gray says. "We would love to see a Lowe's or Home Depot. I just don't know if we have the population to support it."

One potential problem with luring national chain restaurants to town, Gray says, is the lack of lunchtime business.

A large segment of the town's workforce is bussed each day to large mine sites in Lander County. Dinnertime business would be brisk, Gray says, but during lunchtime, traffic from nearby Interstate 80 might not be enough to keep the lights on at a chain restaurant.

Much of the new retail in the region is from smaller companies moving in to support the mining industry, Gray says.

Demand for office space also has been slow to develop.

"Elko has been much more the center of all the big companies," says Terry Miller, commercial real estate specialist with Century 21 Sonoma Realty. "We have support to the mines, but more nominally. There are no huge 40,000-square-foot offices. We just aren't big enough to get the majors in here, and we don't have a wide enough draw area.

"Elko has got the majority of growth related to mining, except for jobs. Mining has really made Winnemucca. But there has been no new retail and no dramatic growth; we haven't had any significant changes in quite a few years. We just are not big enough to get into the majors but we are small enough that we don't work for the little guys, either."


Small space in demand

While much of the growth in commercial realty development related to the mining boom has bypassed Humboldt County, light industrial or warehouse-office space is at a premium, says Terry Miller, commercial real estate specialist with Century 21 Sonoma Realty. Spaces 3,000 square feet and less are 100 percent occupied, Miller says.

"When you get into smaller square footage, there simply is nothing available," he says.

There are a few spaces available in the 10,000-square-foot range, but demand for big spaces is fairly limited.

What works best for Winnemucca, Miller says, are small warehousing and small retail operations. The price per square foot for commercial property still is reasonable, with rates running between 50 to 75 cents a square foot.


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