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Three-legged stool

John Seelmeyer

Executives of Reno-based Meridian Business Advisors swallowed hard when they budgeted a 50 percent increase in sales for 2005.

Nearly halfway though the year, they’re beating their number.

And that, says President Candace Evart, speaks volumes about the growth and sophistication of the business community in northern Nevada.

It reflects, too, the company’s decision to leave behind the sort of general business consulting that’s the bread-and-butter of many firms and focus instead on three specialized areas.

All three primary segments of Meridian’s business – fiscal and economic analysis, litigation support and business valuation are humming, and the company has been adding to its 10-person staff.

Seven analysts are the cornerstone of the staff.

Some of the growth, Evart says, is a simple reflection of population growth in northern Nevada.

She specializes, for instance, in fiscal and economic analysis the figures that developers use to win public support for their projects and the numbers that government officials use to determine if a project makes sense.

That work, as well as the demand for a higher level of professionalism, has boomed with the region’s economy.

“Reno is becoming a much more mature market,” Evart says.

Population growth accounts, too, for part of the increase in the firm’s work in litigation support.

Wallace Behrenz, a Meridian advisor who works extensively in forensic accounting and other legal matters, notes that population growth means that there’s more possibility of white-collar crime in Nevada.

At the same time, he says, an increasingly litigious society means that Meridian’s analysts are called upon to provide testimony about business valuations, the potential lost income of accident victims and a wide array of business disputes.

The third piece of the company’s business business valuations also is driven by population growth, says Jerry Golanty, a Meridian director who specializes in the area.

But just as important, Golanty says, is the historically unprecedented transfer of wealth caused by the aging of the Baby Boom generation.

The oldest Boomers are turning 60, and they’re looking to scale back their business interests or retire.

If they’re selling their business, they need a valuation.

Ditto if they’re looking to transfer wealth to family members.

Meridian Business Advisors positions itself as the only firm in the state that covers all three segments.

That’s important, Behrenz says, because litigation support, business valuation and economic analysis lean on one another.

Most of the firm’s work is in Nevada and northern California, although it handles some accounts in Arizona and other western states.

The firm’s decision to leave behind general business consulting the preparation of business plans and the like came at the start of this year, Evart says.

Instead, the company decided to focus on highmargin work in which it can use its expertise.

That’s a significant change in direction for Meridian Business Advisors, which was launched in 1984 in Arizona by Chris Howard as general consulting firm.He moved the company to Reno more than a decade ago, and Meridian Business Advisors now is one of the pieces of Northstar Investors, a company owned by Howard, Stuart Feigin and State Sen.

Randolph Townsend.


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