City government, industry, airport and development representatives say they hope to work together in coming months on helping grow business in and around the Carson City Airport.
Geared especially toward manufacturing, the idea builds on momentum that got extra impetus when Tesla Motors announced it was locating a battery gigafactory in nearby Storey County. A chorus of people in government and the development field said then the decision by Tesla, which plans to employ 6,500, should spark smaller industry to look at opportunities in Northern Nevada.
Carson City’s mayor and city manager said a heightened initiative to cooperate will come after the Nov. 4 election, while spokesmen for the airport, development field and existing industry are on board with the idea. Karl Hutter, chief operating officer at Click Bond, Inc. and the Airport Authority member representing industry, indicated authority brainstorming already under way may gain steam by such collaboration.
“We need to be always thinking about what we can do out there,” said the manufacturer, whose family firm supplies the aeronautics field and others with innovative fasteners and other parts.
“Out there,” according to Hutter, includes the airport and environs, not just the land on which the airport is located. “So I think we’re talking about that greater (airport) concept.”
Until now the authority has discussed possible development on the airport grounds and Hutter said he hasn’t been involved in talking with the city. Guy Williams, authority chairman, Hutter, the vice chairman, Maurice White, a newer member, and others on the authority board have talked in meetings about what to do on the airport itself, but talks with the city are yet to begin. White advocated talks with the city soon after joining the authority board.
Hutter, for his part, said land is available around the airport and can be used for industrial development that fits into the airport context. He sounded eager to take advantage of the economic recovery.
“There is still room,” he said, speaking of surrounding land. “Obviously, we’ve had a slow period, but it could be corner-turning time with Tesla coming.” He talked of a “tipping point” for Northern Nevada, one that could help Carson City’s industry and economy “get to critical mass. Now we might start seeing a little more perkiness in industrial manufacturing.”
Both Mayor Robert Crowell and Tim Rowe, airport manager, in separate interviews said they “absolutely” are interested in moving forward.
“I’m interested in the general development of manufacturing in our area,” said Crowell, and particularly to learn whether something to encourage technological firms via zoning can be done near the airport or elsewhere. Rowe, meanwhile, like Hutter saw benefits to development on land outside but near the airport.
“Once the land around the airport starts being developed, I think, it would help market the land on the airport,” said Rowe. Rowe and authority members know the market for airport hangars has been soft and they have been trying to find alternative business ideas for their domain.
City Manager Nick Marano took note of the mayor’s appetite for any zoning change that could help business and manufacturing in or around the airport. He also is aware existing vacant industrial space is in short supply here.
“The mayor definitely wants to tee that up right after the election,” he said. Marano, after Tesla’s announcement, proposed altering slightly a city contract with Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) to equalize emphasis on luring new industry and helping existing manufacturers. The original two-year pact had focused first on helping existing manufacturing with upgraded efforts to attract industry the second year.
The NNDA effort to lure outside business is ongoing for the region. The new two-year pact, however, focuses on emphasizing Carson City specifics.
An NNDA spokesman Friday spoke of twin goals to work with both the airport and the city.
“NNDA will be working in conjunction with the Carson City Airport Authority to help find capital to build a new terminal,” said Maurice Washington, NNDA deputy director.
“In addition,” he said, “we are working with the city to put together a strategy for marketing the area surrounding the airport to attract light and medium manufacturing.”
Hutter — interviewed because of both his background as a manufacturer and member of the airport’s governing board — sounded positive regarding prospects over the long term for expansion by the airport eventually to nearby land or to growth on area land for new firms. “When you think of this broadly,” he said, “there really are some interesting opportunities.”