Donald Abbott was elected to his first Sparks City Council term in November 2016 and reelect-ed in November 2020. He is the youngest person ever to serve on the council.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In November, the Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network announced the winners of its 14th annual Twenty Under 40 Awards. With the region’s economic future in mind, we are conducting interviews with each of the 2020 winners, to be published throughout the year.
Who are you?
Name: Donald Abbott
Profession/Title: Sparks City Councilmember - Ward 1
Years in Reno/Northern Nevada: 31
Question: What do you see as the top one or two biggest economic development opportunities for Northern Nevada in 2021 and beyond?
Donald Abbott: I think everything happening in Storey County, that’s a large demand for workforce, and people need workforce housing, so that’s creating some of the diversity we’re having in the housing market. From the city of Sparks’ perspective, we’re trying to get a road from Golden Eagle — our artificial turf field — over to Tesla, and that road actually end up connecting out to North Valleys as the end goal. The Tesla effect across all of Northern Nevada is here. And it’s not just Tesla — there are many other businesses that are out there flourishing. And we’re talking about taking our industrial from down on the river in Sparks and moving it into the hills and getting some residential down by our Truckee River.
Q: Why is it important for younger professionals to have a seat at the table when it comes to the business community in Northern Nevada?
Abbott: For some of us, I can’t speak for everyone, but this is our forever home. To be invested in business, this is what allows us to get the new restaurant down here or the new coffee shop or whatever the business is by all of us working together and supporting each other. We’re able to keep each other around and keep each other employed. I use Sparks businesses. I’ve been to every restaurant in the city of Sparks — there’s 199 of them. I live and breathe the city of Sparks and I’m all about local businesses.
Q: What under the radar industries have the biggest opportunity for growth in Northern Nevada?
Abbott: I think anything that supports the bigger players — Tesla, Apple, Google and Switch. The business that makes parts — small pieces that don’t cost a lot but they need them in quantity — for those bigger businesses to allow them to flourish. I think, with some of our bigger players being out east of the canyon from Sparks, we’re able to have smaller businesses pop up that can succeed. With us being closer and having land available, I think those businesses have an ability to grow significantly.
Q: Where do you see the greater Reno-Sparks region in five years?
Abbott: Definitely growing. But I also hope we don’t lose our small hometown feel. And I think we can keep it as long as we all embrace it and still try to be nice to our neighbors and open the doors for each other, and not just shun the whole world and be afraid of each other.
Q: If you could change one thing for the better or improve one thing about your community, what would it be?
Abbott: If we could just come together a little bit better. I think we do a good job of coming together at certain times, but we get so easily divided when we have a keyboard in front of us, and we just type out hatred. I’ve seen so much hatred on Facebook and Twitter, especially the comments on the news stations’ posts. Life’s too short to have that kind of hatred. To sum it up, be nice to each other and have some courtesy behind the keyboard.
Q: Why do you feel Northern Nevada is better positioned to bounce back from the COVID recession than other regions?
Abbott: I think we have a diverse economy. It’s not all gambling; as much as it is a big part of our local economy, it’s not the only thing going. It’s important for us to have that, but we have a lot of businesses and industries. We have diversity in our overall business community in the region, not just Sparks, and I do feel like we do care and love each other. As much as people might question that some days, there are some amazing caring human beings in our valley that want to help.
Note: This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.