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Carson City lays plans to recruit retail

Pat Patera

When the Nevada State Legislature put a 3 percent cap on property taxes, Carson City took notice.

City services paid for by property taxes would have to get supplemental funding but from where? Additional sales tax was the obvious solution, says Joe McCarthy, economic development and redevelopment manager for the city.

But when it comes to retail outlets,”Carson City is a blank page,” he says.

For example, a recent study showed that while Carson City ranked at 225 percent of the state average in auto sales, it drew just 10 percent of the average in clothing sales.

A survey of citizens showed that residents felt the lack of places to shop locally: to buy clothing for men, for children, fashionable togs for women, and upper end home furnishings.

Carson City aims to rectify that problem.

“However, we’re not just saying: here’s an open space; let’s find somebody,” says McCarthy.

The city wants to engineer its commercial development.

Toward that end, it analyzed demographic data with the aid of the University of Nevada, Reno.And it conducted the analysis for every commercial location in town.

In north Carson City, from the new hospital area down to Winnie Lane, infill retail has the potential to be tied to fashion trends, McCarthy says.

That means stores offering a mix of upscale and unique items, affordable to those in the upper income levels of north Carson neighborhoods.

Looking eastward along the Highway 50 corridor to the Lyon County line, the city sees an inviting commercial horizon to serve the Lyon County commuting public.”We’re still the employment center,”McCarthy notes.

The first segment of that route, the North Carson Crossing Shopping Center, is typical of the mid-range big box retail common at freeway off-ramp locations, says McCarthy.He cites developer Kent Witt as the kind of developer the city wants: local residents who plan to stay in the area to manage their projects not California firms that will build out, sell out and run out.

The third part of the plan looks to roll out a redevelopment district from the railroad museum southward three miles to the county line.

There, the mix would be of auto sales, restaurants and other commercial.

To fill those districts, he city’s retail recruitment team has met with national retailers.

Team members are Joe McCarthy,Angela Barosso, economic development officer,Marv Teixeira, mayor of Carson City,Miya MacKenzie, partner in MacWest Marketing of Carson City and Tom Outland, a principal of Powerhouse, a Reno marketing firm.

Team members attended the International Conference of Shopping Centers, which drew about 45,000 to a recent Las Vegas convention, says MacKenzie.

They took a booth in the public sector showcase, backed by a large poster and fronted by a stack of full-color promotional brochures.

“We made some really good contacts,” she said.

They have set up meetings with developers and commercial retailers.

“Carson City is a little gold mine that’s been overlooked,” says

Outland.

Powerhouse based a strategic marketing plan on input from the Envision Carson City public survey process.

It packaged the resulting compelling statistics into a concept: a vision of a community that’s underserved.

Outland says prime opportunities for urban infill exist at the city’s core near the Carson Nugget casino.

To fuel the desired colonization, the agency did research on grants to help start-ups tap funding sources.

Barosso’s part is to provide content for the Web site carsoncityecondev.com designed to answer questions for prospective retailers.

MacKenzie recasts the demographic data into palatable PowerPoint presentations.

Outland handles creative.

In addition to attracting new retailers, the city instituted a formal business retention program.

The key to that is communication.

McCarthy and Teixeira sat down with several of the largest retailers in town to urge them to air any problems to be proactive in telling the city how it can facilitate their presence in the community.

The city is serious about its role, says McCarthy: to mitigate unnecessary regulatory interference, because the city is a service organization.

Its job is to facilitate business.

McCarthy stresses that the focus of his two-person department remains the same as always: building primary jobs: those that pay well, with a future.

The retail recruitment and retention campaign started with the election of Texeria, says McCarthy.

“You can’t sit back and wait for them to come to you,” says Teixeira.”This was something we needed.” “The mayor told us to focus on commercial as well, to balance economic development activities,” says McCarthy.”Because to attract quality manufacturing companies,we need to provide quality of life.”