Carson Conversation: In Carson City, ‘grow’ is a four-letter word (Voices)

Ronni Hannaman is executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.

Ronni Hannaman is executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce. Courtesy Photo

The verb “grow” is defined as, “to become larger or greater over a period of time.” To those who are anti-growth, this verb is truly a negative four-letter word, and they are not shy about letting everyone know their stand.

To those with a positive outlook, growth means prosperity.

Like the rest of Northern Nevada, Carson City is becoming larger and will continue to become greater over time. We’ve seen evidence of this since 1970 when the first California migration took place as city officials aggressively recruited California manufacturers, then recurring again in the late 1990s when the second wave of Californians saw the handwriting on the wall, leaving their once Golden State.

The third wave is now underway as Californians are relocating almost anywhere in the West.  It’s not our lack of taxes that is the draw, for Nevada is in the lower middle of the pack (No. 29) when it comes to personal tax burdens. Those relocating tell us they are drawn here by our quality of life, lack of radical in-your-face politics, better affordability, and overall natural beauty.

Migration brings growth. The pressure to expand the housing and apartment market is similar all over Northern Nevada. Builders cannot keep up with the demand no matter the price point. Rooftops are springing up all over this small city comprising a mere 144 square miles. Builders are snapping up the few open spaces left and infilling the smaller parcels.

At a recent Chamber meeting with business leaders, Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell provided an overview of building now in progress, the lots being prepared for construction, and those still on the drawing board.

She assured all Carson City is a long way from being overbuilt, citing that buildout may be around 70,000. The current population sits at about 56,000, thus around 14,000 new residents may call our city home over the next few years.

The presentation by Mayor Bagwell showed 934 new homes/townhouses currently under construction along with 730 apartment units. Developers are now clearing and preparing infrastructure in anticipation of building 443 new homes/townhouses and 90 apartment units.

Still on the drawing board are proposed 203 single-family lots at the Anderson Ranch in west Carson and 605 apartment units on the east side of Carson Street, within walking distance of downtown.

That’s a total of 3,005 new units in some phase of planning and/or development. With the Carson City average of 2.33 residents per household as cited by the U.S. Census Bureau, that translates to about 8,155 new residents calling this city home within the next few years — if the economy holds.

Which brings us back to that four-letter word: “grow.”

Between 1969-2019, Carson grew from 15,528 to 55,916, a net gain of 260.1%. The peak growth occurred in the 1970s, flattening in the 1980s and peaking again in the mid-late 1990s, decreasing during the Great Recession.

Stats show Carson grew an average of 2.64% over that period and has never replicated the 1971 growth spurt of almost 15%.

With growth comes new dining and entertainment opportunities, national chains and new jobs.

Growth brings more diversity, whether age or ethnic. Growth can attract the good, the bad and the ugly that can be controlled by forward-thinking elected officials. Even the “old timers” universally agree growth has made for a better Carson City.

Carson City Chairman of the Board Rob Joiner states, “Growth pays for itself. It’s when you stop growing you don’t pay for yourself.”

He reminds us new residents absorb all costs of new development within their housing cost and will continue to pay higher taxes for city services than locals who have lived here for 20 years.

While many of us would love to have been the one to “turn out the light” once settled, the reality is there will be growing pains again to overcome.

Every community must grow and change or shrivel and die. Carson City chooses to grow and prosper to make way for the next generation.

“Carson Conversation” is a monthly NNBW Voices column authored by Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce. Reach her for comment at


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