Northern Nevada’s economic growth stretches far beyond just the Reno core |

Northern Nevada’s economic growth stretches far beyond just the Reno core

Rob Sabo

Special to the NNBV

As Reno’s tide has risen, it’s lifted the economies of surrounding communities.
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Read more in the 2018 Northern Nevada Relocation Guide This story is adapted from the 2018 Northern Nevada Relocation Guide, a specialty publication that was inserted in the Sept. 24, 2018, print edition of the NNBV. Go here to access a digital edition of the magazine.

RENO, Nev. — Living in Greater Reno-Sparks isn’t just about life in the Biggest Little City. The entire Northern Nevada region is ripe with strong economic activity and unique recreational opportunities.

As Reno’s tide has risen, it’s lifted the economies of surrounding communities. From Fernley and Fallon to Carson City and the Carson Valley, the whole of Northern Nevada’s is experiencing a region-wide economic boom.

Rob Hooper, longtime president and chief executive officer of the Northern Nevada Development Authority in Carson, says the regional growth is directly tied to developments west of the Sierra Nevada.

“Our growth is really connected to growth that happens on other side of hill,” Hooper says. “We are an extension of the Bay Area and Central Valley, and as it grows and prospers so do we. (California) has experienced a lot of growth and it is coming this direction. It’s been driving (our economy) for years.”

Region-wide recovery

The whole of Northern Nevada was in a shambles just a decade ago. In the Sierra region, which includes Storey, Lyon and Douglas counties, as well as Carson City, industrial vacancy skyrocketed to 26 percent. Today it’s around 3 percent, Hooper says, and every available building in the region is either under contract or is in negotiations.

The region is ripe for a building boom, Hooper adds. Much of the easily developed industrial land in Greater Reno-Sparks has already been developed, and Blockchains purchased a vast tract of available land at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in 2017. That’s pushing new development to the Sierra Region, Hooper says.

Fernley, located about 30 miles east of Reno, is poised to become regional multimodal transportation and logistics hub. Polaris has broken ground on a 475,000-square-foot distribution and added-value center, and Black Gold Terminals recently announced it will operate a short-line locomotive to service the needs of regional companies. The Fernley area already is served by national rail carriers Union Pacific and BNSF Railway.

“Fernley has been a sleeper for a while now, but we are seeing lot of demand and a lot more building going on in Fernley,” Hooper says. “Also, it’s got a lot of flat land — that is the most logical place for multimodal transportation center to flourish. We are seeing the first big hunk of it with the ribbon cutting for Black Gold Terminal.”

Since 2010, nearly 70 companies have expanded or established a footprint in the Sierra Region. The majority of them are drawn to the region due to its proximity to customers in the greater western region.

“We are geographically blessed — you can service 90 percent of the whole western U.S. in one day with a truck,” Hooper says. “They are here because of the cost of transportation, energy, land, and business in general.

“The best companies that are coming here are really the ones that are expanding here,” he adds. “They need to get bigger, and they can expand a facility here. The cost average of that facility is excellent; we provide a greater shareholder interest on return.”

Other areas poised to experience strong economic growth include Dayton and Silver Springs, primarily due to the completion of USA Parkway extension that helps tie those communities into the logistics network of Greater Reno-Sparks.

One major shift in the Sierra Region’s economic future stems from large companies seeking to establish a footprint in Northern Nevada, Hooper says. During the last economic boom, many of the companies that planted their flags in the region were smaller organizations that required 50,000-square-feet or less of industrial space.

Currently, larger organizations requiring far larger spaces are scouting the region, and they require much larger employment needs.

Getting out and about

Life in Northern Nevada isn’t all about work, though. The interior of Nevada has some of the most unique features of any state in the nation. Reno and Sparks and communities throughout the Sierra Region are great jumping off points for exploring the Silver State, says Chris Moran, media relations specialist for TravelNevada, the state’s tourism marketing division.

“Reno is a great starting point for Northern Nevada adventures,” Moran says. “From Reno you can see hot springs, ghost towns, historical sites, recreational sites — there is definitely a range of opportunities for adventure.”

Newcomers to the region can find a range of pre-planned itineraries on TravelNevada’s web site that take adventurers to the rocky granite slopes of the John Muir Wilderness in the Eastern Sierra to the sun-kissed shores of Lake Tahoe. Here are three of Moran’s favorite must-do day trips:

  • Grimes Point. Located in Fallon about an hour’s drive east of Reno, the Grime’s Point archeological site features Native American petroglyphs left on a field of basalt boulders several thousands of years ago. The trip should also include a guided visit to nearby Hidden Cave, which was formed about 21,000 years ago.
  • Genoa. Located at the base of the Carson Range in the Carson Valley, Genoa exudes Nevada’s Old West charm and history. Genoa features the oldest operating bar in a state full of bars and watering holes. Genoa also is home to Mormon Station State Historic Park, the first white settlement in the state. THere are hiking trails in the area, as well as David Wally’s Resort, a spa-condominium resort featuring six natural hot springs along with a full-service spa.
  • Fly Ranch. Located near Gerlach, Fly Ranch is a 3,800-acre tract of land that features many active geological features, including three geysers and several dozen natural spring pools. The Burning Man Project purchased the ranch in 2016 and offers guided tours.

Other popular Nevada exploration destinations include Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nye County, Virginia City in Storey County, and the Unionville ghost town in Pershing County.

“There is so much to explore in Nevada,” Moran says.

Rob Sabo is a Reno-based freelance writer and former reporter for the Northern Nevada Business View.