Agency creates plans to diversify economy |

Agency creates plans to diversify economy

Rob Sabo
The wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities in Eureka, Lander and White Pine counties is among the many assets being promoted by Great Basin Regional Development Authority.

After spending much of the last year exploring the prime assets of a tri-country region of central Nevada, the Great Basin Regional Development Authority is moving forward with plans to attract new businesses to Lander, White Pine and Eureka counties.

The authority was formed in October of 2012 and recently launched a Web site that details the counties’ varied economic benefits. Mining, of course, is the primary economic driver in each county, but Great Basin Regional Development Authority is promoting the region’s other assets.

“We are trying to develop and diversify our industries,” Executive Director Don Vetter says. “We want to try and bring organic local business growth, and that means we want to create businesses and entrepreneurs who can service that mining industry supply chain. But we also want to develop companies that will bring new job centers. When you are dominated by one industry that has these peaks and valleys, you want to try and find economic diversity that would help level those swings out so you are not so dependent on the price of gold and silver.”

Eureka, Lander and White Pine counties include vast acreage of undeveloped land that could house many different industries, Vetter says. Among them:

Clean energy — The hills in each county are covered with pinion-juniper woodlands that could be harvested by companies to serve as an alternative fuel base for biomass power production.

Solar power — Southern Nevada has the large Nevada One, Ivanpah and Copper Mountain solar plants, and solar power is another attractive option for central Nevada, Vetter says — especially with the addition of the One Nevada Transmission Line, which connects the Las Vegas to the Robinson Summit substation near Ely.

“We can tap into this renewable energy, and that also brings into play industries with high-energy usage needs. We can fulfill that through renewable sources, which can be very advantageous with tax credits and sustainability for a company.”

Geothermal development — The tri-county region is situated in a prime geothermal region, Vetter notes. Ormat’s 30-megawatt McGinness Hills power plant is in Lander County near Austin. Ormat is expanding the plant to add an additional 30 megawatts of geothermal power production.

Wind farms — Pattern Energy’s 152 megawatt Spring Valley wind farm in White Pine County — the largest wind farm in the state — began commercial production in August of 2012 and could lead to additional wind-power development, Vetter says.

Logistics — Lander, White Pine Eureka counties are served by Interstate 80 and other highways, and the low cost of land could be attractive to logistics companies.

The key to attracting new business in the region, Vetter adds, is telling the right story that promotes the region’s remote location and rural atmosphere.

The region also could serve as a business incubator for agricultural research and development firms studying alternative crop growth in a high desert environment. Great Basin Regional Development Authority is working with University of Nevada, Reno, to find ways to bring commercial low-water usage crops to market. Alfalfa is the main agricultural crop grown in the area, but it requires large tracts of land and a great deal of water.

Northeastern and central Nevada also has received a great deal of attention in the past few years as the nation’s next big oil and natural gas play. Noble Energy of Houston currently is drilling exploration wells in Elko County, and if the company is successful it could lead to a whole new industry in the state.

“We see Great Basin Regional Development Authority as being a connector between state, federal and local governments and businesses looking to relocate,” Vetter says. “The challenge is trying to get us on the map of interest; that’s one of our key efforts. We also hope to be conduit for grant money to help kick-start some of these programs either for relocation or organic growth.”