NAIOP’s Development Forum focuses on infrastructure
As the subject of economic development resonates through northern Nevada, preparing for the challenges associated with development and infrastructure are of interest to industries such as commercial real estate.
Five panelists gathered at NAIOP’s fifth annual Developers Forum on Feb. 28 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center to discuss the challenges ahead for northern Nevada.
Panelists at the forum included Vince Griffith, president of Reno Engineering Corporation, Doug Roberts, partner at Panattoni Development Company, Inc., Jonathan Tratt, principal at Tratt Properties, Michael Dermody, chairman and CEO of Dermody Properties, and Bill Miles, president and CEO of Miles Construction. Holland & Hart’s Doug Flowers and Ticor Title’s Denise Barcomb were the moderators at the event.
Many of the panelists highlighted downtown Reno, North Valleys, South Meadows and the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center as submarkets of northern Nevada where they are focusing a lot of their work.
Griffith mentioned their work along Startup Row as well as their future focus being, “to continue to drive redevelopment downtown.”
He also mentioned the need for services out at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and their work on a hotel there.
Looking South, Roberts mentioned Zazzle’s 10-year lease. He also acknowledged northern Nevada’s recent weather patterns.
“The weather has been a bit of a bear, putting us a little behind,” Roberts said.
Miles echoed the weather comment, “We are having trouble building too; we are stuck in the mud.”
He mentioned the nonsmoking hotel projects downtown including the Renaissance Marriott getting close to completion.
“We are working with a lot of sub markets,” Miles added.
He cited a medical marijuana facility in Mustang, a world-class distillery in Minden and AquaMetals in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.
Dermody touched on active projects near Boomtown as well as work in the North Valleys.
“We do work around the country and we want to bring back what we learn,” he added.
Most of the panelists mentioned adjustments to building for Internet fulfillment and e-commerce.
“We have had to up our game for how our buildings look,” Roberts mentioned. “This is a lot of tenants’ storefronts,” he added.
However, the main focus of the discussion was around infrastructure and what northern Nevada can do to improve.
“The congestion in North Valleys didn’t happen after the recession, it was there before,” Dermody said.
He went on to acknowledge Nevada as one of lowest tax states in the union and the challenges that can present for growth.
“You can’t have low tax and high development,” he said.
“I concur with Michael (Dermody),” Miles said.
“We have had a lot of flooding this year. There will be a need for mitigation,” Miles added.
He also mentioned the importance of education and Washoe County taking steps to address that with the passing of SOSWashoe to raise revenue for school infrastructure.
Roberts explained that the perspective of the region is different for a large industrial company from another market.
“I think some of this is relative,” Roberts said.
He played out the comparisons of driving through the spaghetti bowl for work increasing traffic, but the ability to have a job in Lemmon Valley not impacting it.
“These are different companies, they are changing,” Roberts said in regards to these companies hiring more skilled labor that receive higher wages.
“The region does good at three and five years, but not at 20 years,” Griffith said.
He addressed the conversation of spending more money on the spaghetti bowl and the efforts of USA Parkway to move industrial traffic.
“It is close enough to benefit the community, but far enough it doesn’t turn downtown into a parking lot,” he said.
Dermody brought up the need to focus on infrastructure issues.
“While we are doing so much, there is still so much more we can do,” he said. “We are doing wonderful things, but there is more that we can do if we focus on it.”
Tratt brought in a national perspective and mentioned the reality of the conversation in D.C. revolving around how to pay for infrastructure.
“It is always good when we can learn best practices from others and see how they do,” Tratt said.
He speculated the idea of a public-private partnership or alliance.
“Both sides want it, but how are we going to pay for it,” he said.
The panel also discussed their pitfalls, which varied a bit.
“Probably the biggest challenge today as a developer is capital and cash flow,” Miles said of smaller industrial projects.
“It is probably the impact fee issue,” Dermody noted as one of their biggest challenges.
Griffith mentioned the permit process as something they feel to be very challenging.
Questions from the audience revolved around the business license tax with the City of Reno as well as the need for housing in the region.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.