Carson City panel: Thanks to California, Western Nevada’s economy rebounding well | nnbw.com
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Carson City panel: Thanks to California, Western Nevada’s economy rebounding well

Geoff Dornan

gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A panel of real estate, banking and construction experts painted a positive economic outlook for Northern Nevada Wednesday, saying the economy here is rebounding despite the pandemic.

And a significant reason, they agreed, is the flight of California businesses to the region.

“California is doing us a big favor right now,” said Northern Nevada Development Authority Director Rob Hooper. “They’re pushing a lot of people our way.”

Hooper was joined by Brad Bonkowski of NAI Alliance representing the real estate industry, Aaron West of the Nevada Builders Alliance, Bill Miles of Miles Construction and Ty Nebe of Plumas Bank for the Wednesday morning virtual discussion co-hosted by NNDA and the builders alliance, both based in Carson City.

Specifically, the economic discussion centered on what’s known as the “Sierra Region” of Northern/Western Nevada, which includes Carson City and Douglas, Lyon, Mineral and Storey counties (economic development in Washoe County is handled by the Reno-based Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada).

“The California migration is on,” said Bonkowski, who also represents Ward 2 on the Carson City Board of Supervisors, Wednesday morning. “We get calls every day from companies in California that want to relocate.”

West added that the region’s housing market is, “as hot as it’s ever been,” and there just isn’t enough inventory to meet the demand.

“What keeps me very positive is the amount of growth coming to this area because of California,” said Nebe.

He said not only are Californians moving to Northern Nevada, Southern Californians are moving to nearby parts of Northern California.

Despite the optimism, all panelists Wednesday expressed concern about what might happen to the Sierra Region’s economy when the federal cash stops coming.

They also expressed concern for the small retailers and businesses such as restaurants and bars that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdowns.

“Small businesses and restaurants seem to be taking the brunt of the impact because of the restrictions,” said Bonkowski, adding that the region’s economy is buoyed by the large number of jobs economic development has brought to the area in recent years. “That’s going to change when the stimulus money runs out.”

In addition, he expressed concern that the office real estate market may suffer depending on how many workers now working from home return to the office.

“Efficiency dictates a large portion of workers will come back to the formal office site, but even if 15 percent of workers can work from home, it’s going to have a huge impact on the office market,” he said.

Miles said the coronavirus has caused some major problems for the construction industry, adding that 80 percent of contractors in the country were having problems getting skilled workers before the pandemic hit.

In providing an example of added COVID-19 impacts, Miles said someone on a flooring subcontractor’s crew caught the virus while working on a hospitality project this summer in the Lake Tahoe Basin, “so the entire crew of flooring subs disappeared off our site for 10 days.”

West said the pandemic has also disrupted supply chains for contractors. He said lumber prices have doubled this year and appliances and other materials are much harder to get.

All panelists, however, expressed confidence the area economy will emerge from this period stronger and more diversified than ever.