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Tech firms give downtown a new vibe

ROB SABO

A handful of businesses are slowly changing the perception of downtown Reno.

Longtime Reno residents still can call up images of gamblers walking Virginia Street cradling buckets of quarters and nickels. That image is changing as a growing number of software development and technical-services companies take downtown office space.

The younger, hipper group of workers also has led to several new restaurants and bars opening that cater to the younger generation.

The downtown core has become home to some well-established tech companies Noble Studios, Three G and a host of smaller firms Dibbs, One-to-One Interactive, ProTechnical, MyNewPlace.com and Reality Engineering. The emergence of a small tech cluster helps existing employers lure creative and technical workers to the region, and also creates more opportunity for job seekers.

“There are a lot of people that have no idea we have a tech industry in this city,” says Suzanne Lynn, general manager of Three G. “Having all of these companies together in the same geographic area brings more people and more recognition to all of us.”

Three G moved from South Meadows in January of 2010 into the 15th floor at 300 E. Second Street, and on Aug. 1 the company expanded to take additional office space on the 14th floor as well.

The company’s move into a freshly renovated building in the downtown area has helped foster a greater sense of prestige about the company in the eyes of visitors, many of which are used to the first-class office space found in larger cities.

“We have this amazing view and atmosphere, and we can invite companies that we work with from much more standard high-tech areas to visit and be proud of our space,” Lynn says. “We are in an environment that is comparable to the Bay Area in the location, the views and the space that we have.”

As more tech companies move into the area, living and working in Reno will become a more attractive option for both out-of-state workers and graduates of the University of Nevada, Reno. Additionally, the incremental increases in tech-oriented businesses provides current and future employees with greater career options that could lead to better-paying positions through career growth.

“We actually have a pretty decent pool of tech employees in this area,” Lynn says. “When you are looking at people relocating from the Bay Area, or the Pacific Northwest, they look at if they have other options and if for whatever reason the job doesn’t work out, if they have other options in the area rather than relocating again. If you have more of those businesses available you will be more inclined to bring that talent into the area.”

Noble Studios moved from Carson City to downtown Reno to not only be located closer to its largest employee base but also to be closer to Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

About 65 percent of the marketing and Web-development company’s business is out of the Reno-Sparks market, says co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jarrod Lopiccolo, and much of the company’s future growth is targeted from businesses located within a one-hour flight of Reno.

“We are targeting Utah, Phoenix, L.A., and we are starting to look at other areas that could be revenue-generating cities or locations for satellite offices. Having us near the airport means we could be there in an hour,” Lopiccolo says.

Noble leased office space on the eighth floor at 50. W. Liberty St. Moving to downtown Reno allowed the majority of employees to eliminate a burdensome commute to Carson City, and Noble also is better positioned to draw new talent from UNR. The company is in a three- to five-year growth curve, Lopiccolo says, and seeks to fill several positions such as Web developers, strategists, and project managers.

“Being downtown gives us access to talent and specifically with the university,” Lopiccolo says. “We really want to make sure the people coming out of college have a place to go to. That had an influence on our location being downtown. Looking in the future, as we have more tech companies move to downtown, it ultimately will drive the amount of talent that is employed in the area. That creates more competition, but at least we are retaining workers and they are not leaving for San Francisco or Austin.”

The growing tech cluster is a boon for downtown landlords as well, says Scott Stranzl, vice president of leasing with Basin Street Properties. Basin Street manages about 525,000 square feet of class A office space in downtown, including the buildings at 50 W. Liberty and 300 E. Second. Stranzl says Basin Street is aggressively marketing its properties to tech-related companies.

It also has helped lead to the rise of popular independent eateries and watering holes populated by downtown workers SUP, Midtown Eats, Old Granite Street Eatery, St. James Infirmary, Lincoln Lounge and the Freight House District all enjoy business from downtown tech workers.