Lyon County eyes right economic growth for its needs

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 13 hosted a luncheon addressing Lyon County’s ongoing economic development efforts.

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 13 hosted a luncheon addressing Lyon County’s ongoing economic development efforts. Photo by Jessica Garcia.

Ensuring diversification while strengthening economic development has changed for Lyon County throughout the years, but ultimately, business officials know what they’re looking for to encourage success.

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 13 hosted a luncheon addressing Lyon County’s ongoing economic development efforts. John Cassinelli of Dayton-based Cassinelli Landscaping and Construction moderated a panel that included Lyon County Manager Jeff Page, recently hired Community Development Director Andrew Haskin and Northern Nevada Development Authority Executive Director Philip Cowee.

Page, Cowee and Haskin provided insights on the county’s opportunities for growth and quality of life, including the Webstaurant distribution center in Dayton, while identifying possible challenges that have come with recent population changes or zoning requests.

“Economic development is the right building in the right community at the right time to bring growth,” Page said. “What is the right business? We never wanted and we no longer want a 500-person operation that pays minimum wage to 499 people and six figures to the CEO.”

Page said one of the best events to happen to Lyon was the Great Recession in 2010, forcing the county to lay off 30% of its workforce, make its departments think smarter and push its Planning and Community Development teams to consolidate. In turn, the community developer position became open and Page took on the responsibility of the role for about 16 months before Haskin was hired in August.

Page, noting the typical county “cookie-cutter approach” does not work for Lyon for many of its operational decisions, said much of this was the basis in establishing a new planning process that would bring new business and residential opportunities in the long run.

“Economic development is more than just bringing a business or a box store to your community,” Page said. “It’s what else they do to enhance quality of life within the community.”

Haskin, previously serving as director of business development at NNDA, now oversees planning, building, code enforcement and engineering. He said he has spent his time since joining the county talking to local companies about social responsibility and giving back to their community.

But a central role for Haskin is to ensure developments are meeting standards and working with the Nevada Department of Transportation’s traffic engineers, and with the influx of residents and businesses comes more traffic.

Lyon’s eight communities, which have seen an average rate of growth of 3% to 4% annually, are seeing increases in infrastructure concerns.

Roughly 75% of the population, Cowee cited, commute out of Lyon to go to work. Page added there is no significant building occurring in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in neighboring Storey County, so Lyon likely could see slower growth in the near future without any large employers coming to Fernley and the north portion of Lyon.

However, there are still long-term transportation impacts elsewhere. For example, Highway 50 in Dayton has been a constant source of concern. Lane reductions that began even as recently as September for utility repairs and are in effect through the end of October are slowing traffic from Dayton Valley Road through Townsend Street, creating delays. Page said it would be appropriate to designate it as a boulevard for safer traffic and loop it around Dayton, similar to McCarran Boulevard.

“When I hear people say, ‘I want the rural flavor of what Dayton was,’ that’s gone,” Page said. “Let’s face the facts and figure it out how we deal with it as the population grows. … Our senior population is increasing 6% a year county-wide. We need to have businesses county-wide to help our seniors as well as have the tax rate and base to be able to provide those services.”

Cassinelli asked Cowee and Haskin about recruiting strategies for Lyon and what NNDA could do to increase business growth and invite employees where housing in certain areas might be restricted, especially in Yerington or Silver Springs where the Anaconda Mine site will bring in more jobs in the new few months. Page said there is no new or affordable housing available for workers.

Cowee said it’s similar to the Webstaurant situation in Dayton, adding that while all Northern Nevada’s counties are welcoming, it depends on what employers and businesses are looking for specifically — and, it’s generally harder to attract younger generations to rural settings like Lyon.

“There’s a pretty big captive audience if we can figure out how to reroute them,” Cowee said. “… The problem is we seem to be losing affordability. Think of Section 8. We’re not talking about apartments. We’re talking about places a first-time homebuyer can live in. Kids graduate from (the University of Nevada, Reno) or Dayton High School, and having an opportunity to come into one of these businesses or will be coming and having a good career. These are career jobs.”

Cassinelli asked about the impact of opportunity zones within the county, and Page said there are several misnomers when it comes to the program intended to provide tax breaks to smaller franchises interested in entering communities. Page said although opportunity zones have been established in Lyon and Storey counties and Carson City, they have yielded little immediate benefit, though it has been a significant issue to Lyon.

“It’s always a moving target,” Page said. “The concept itself is not a bad concept. It’s worked well in other jurisdictions. It makes sense for Disney World to provide fire and water. But it’s requiring us and Storey County to do the same, and we’ve strongly opposed this at the Legislature and other hearings … and I don’t need any more bureaucracy.”

After the luncheon, Lyon County Commissioner Ken Gray, who represents Dayton, said he felt the panel “hit the nail on the head” about providing the right information to the public, adding that he had concerns about a question he had heard about Dayton potentially becoming incorporated in a similar fashion to Fernley.

“There’s so much misinformation to become a city,” he said. “People don’t understand what it takes. It would break the city of Dayton immediately.”

He said he would prefer to deal with the Highway 50 traffic impact issue first with the residential influx expected on the corridor.

“It’s part education and part engineering,” he said.

Resident Jim Davis, a retiree from California who has been in Dayton for less than 11 months, came to Lyon County because he wanted to enjoy the rural lifestyle Northern Nevada had to offer.

Davis said the area already has become more urban in the short time he’s lived in Dayton and that it has lost a certain amount of “rural” flavor.

“We’re trying to attract major corporations and business and warehousing and we’re already talking about getting trains out to Fernley and moving good easily and we’re going to set this up and go, stop, go, stop, go, stop,” Davis said. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”


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