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Q&A: With Reno 1868 ceasing operations, GM talks business impacts, Aces’ future and more

RENO, Nev. — March 12, 2020, is a date that rocked the sports world. By the end of it, Americans would see March Madness canceled and all four major leagues put on indefinite hold, set in motion by the NBA suspending its season the night before.

Games with thousands of cheering fans were now seen as potential superspreader events for the novel coronavirus. In a blink, the sports world was sidelined by COVID-19.

It was around this time when Eric Edelstein, president of the Reno Aces and Reno 1868 FC, knew there was no playbook for what the business of sports was going to face this year.

“It was March 16 or 17, we sent everyone home,” Edelstein told the NNBW in a recent interview. “And at that point we just thought, all right, 2020 is really screwed. We’re just going to have to gut through 2020.”

Nearly eight months later, on Nov. 6 — less than three weeks after losing in the USL conference semifinals to Phoenix Rising FC via penalty kicks — Reno 1868 FC announced it was ceasing operations after four seasons.

It was a decision, ultimately made by owner Herb Simon (who also owns the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and WNBA’s Indiana Fever), that Edelstein could only describe as “gut-wrenching.”

“We’d been really looking hard at the business and the long-term impact of COVID and what the other side looked like,” Edelstein said. “We did a lot of very, very difficult evaluation over a very, very short amount of time and just concluded that this was the right thing for the company at large.”

Reno 1868 FC played its shortened 2020 season inside a mostly empty Greater Nevada Field due to social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, fans of the Reno Aces didn’t see a single pitch this season, as the baseball club canceled its 2020 season entirely due to COVID.

As a result, the company lost “somewhere between $7-$8 million” in ticket revenue alone, Edelstein said, and “millions more” from lost in-venue sales, sponsorships and media income.

Jared Timmer, a Reno 1868 FC midfielder, gives a thumbs up to couple hundred fans allowed to attend a playoff game at Greater Nevada Field in October.
Photo: David Calvert

As the year comes to a close, the long-term consequences that COVID will have on the sports industry are still coming into focus. With that in mind, the NNBW spoke with Edelstein about the pandemic’s impact on professional sports and minor league franchises and what Reno 1868 FC’s folding means for the future of the Reno Aces.

Q: Why has COVID had an especially negative business impact on minor league teams in mid-size markets like Reno?

Edelstein: We are live-action dinner theater — that’s the role we play. The entire business model is built around live people coming together at the stadium. And when that’s the one thing you specifically can’t do, the success on the field … it matters because that’s why you play sports.

But, it doesn’t bring the positive impact to the business when people can’t come. Specifically, for baseball and soccer, our spring and summer seasons, from the moment one season ends, the income stops. And you begin investing, and all of that money that you’re spending is for the next season.

For the timing of COVID, particularly for our industry, we were at the tail-end of that spend period when we would start to generate income. And it all stopped. And for us, it never returned. Even though we played a soccer season, we’d have a total of 950 spectators between two games. That’s clearly a drop in the bucket.

And baseball didn’t play at all. So we are now, at the earliest, another six months away from getting another drop of revenue.

I think it was probably August that it hit us that this is going to be a multi-year rebuild that’s going to take a lot of work. We’ve got a road ahead of us, but I think it’s going to be a multi-year rebuild. 

Q: How did the pandemic impact the team’s sponsorships and relationships with those sponsors?

Edelstein: I think we were able to retain somewhere in the 15% to 20% of our soccer sponsorships just based on television. So, we were able to carve out just a small piece that we were able to retain for those who had field signage and some exposure on the broadcast.

The Reno Aces have a ‘very secure’ long-term future despite COVID’s impacts on the sports industry, says team president Eric Edelstein.
Photo: David Calvert

But still, the vast majority of it is built upon in-stadium attendance, so it wasn’t able to be realized.

We’ve worked very hard with our sponsors, many of which paid ahead of the season to create credits and rollovers to give them credit for the future.

We do plan to be here for a long time as a business, so I think we’ve done right by all of our sponsors for the long term.

Q: On that note, what does Reno 1868 FC’s shutdown mean for the future of the Reno Aces?

Edelstein: Even though they are owned by the same person, they need to be completely separated. The history, longevity and value of the (Aces) franchise, the lease partnership we have with the city of Reno — Greater Nevada Field was built for the Aces. So, the long-term future of the Aces is very secure.

And, if anything, with the unfortunate decision (to fold Reno 1868 FC), we double down on the core business, which is why the stadium is here in the first place. No one should be concerned about the Aces’ future; we have a long-term future ahead of us.

Q: What do you think needs to change for the financial outlook of the business to get back to where it needs to be? 

Edelstein: A lot of businesses have been affected by the pandemic. The reality is that we need the health and safety of our community to be well. Whether that’s the vaccine, whether that’s therapeutics, we need to get to a point where this disease that we’re living with doesn’t threaten lives, and only at that point can our business even begin to sort of come out of it.

And I think at that point, it will return fiercely, because I think we’re all missing those simple pleasures that were taken away from us this year. But, the bottom line is the health and safety of the community. When it’s right, we’ll be right.

Q: What are the main things you’re focusing on between now and the Aces’ next season?

Edelstein: A few things. One is continuing to stay relevant and communicate with our fans, keeping in touch with our fan base, continuing to build our distribution, and make sure that we’re updating people. And celebrate the accomplishments of our players. (Cincinnati Reds pitcher) Trevor Bauer, Aces alum, just won the NL Cy Young (Award).

And we’re looking at making sure that our digital footprint is correct, that it’s easy for fans to buy tickets, it’s easy for fans to get information about us. So, we’re really evaluating all throughout the business … are we the most efficient we can be?

And so, sort of getting our house in order is the main objective, while also communicating with our community leaders, our sponsors, our season ticket holders, to make sure that we know that they’re there.

We still love them and we can’t wait to bring them back as soon as we safely can.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Nevada economic board OKs $29.5 million in tax breaks for 11 new companies

CARSON CITY, Nev. — On Wednesday, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development Board of Directors approved roughly $29.5 million in tax abatements for 11 new companies — including eight in Northern Nevada — that are projected to generate roughly $90 million in tax revenue and create nearly 2,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

“I am glad to welcome these companies to the Silver State to help to diversify our economy and create in-demand, high-skilled, and good-paying jobs,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “As we continue to navigate the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, job creation and rebuilding our economy remains a top priority.”

Below is a breakdown of the companies — as well as the abatements each will receive in exchange for doing business in the Silver State — as approved by the GOED board, according to a Wednesday press release from GOED:

  • Acorn Pulp Group LLC in Washoe County received an estimated $616,706 in tax abatements. It will produce an estimated $4,073,084 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 54 jobs at an average wage of $24.33 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $340,433,164 with 119 jobs.
  • Beyond Meat Inc. in Washoe County received an estimated $4,390,290 in tax abatements. It will produce $13,488,036 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 135 jobs at an average wage of $23.61 per hour and make an initial capital equipment investment of $42.2 million. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $903,162,299, which includes 343 jobs.
  • Centerline Structural Innovations in Washoe County received an estimated $348,806 in tax abatements. It will generate an estimated $9,118,430 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 55 jobs at an average wage of $37.44 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $451,930,521, which includes 261 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $3,351,051 and create an estimated 18 construction jobs.
  • American Battery Technology Company in Lyon County received an estimated $1,331,016 in tax abatements. It will produce $7,544,803 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 50 jobs at an average wage of $45.47 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $348,467,751 with 89 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $18,091,250, with an estimated 160 construction jobs.

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RELATED: Nevada company planning 60,000 sq. ft. lithium-ion battery plant for Fernley

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  • GigaCrete in Clark County received an estimated $454,337 in tax abatements but will produce $3,116,263 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 25 jobs at an average wage of $26.10 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $114,693,517 that includes 70 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $5,967,600.
  • Lithion Battery in Clark County received an estimated $533,869 in tax abatements. It will produce $2,916,142 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 22 jobs at an average wage of $30.41 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $140,921,666, which includes 65 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $5,179,049.
  • Nanotech Energy in Washoe County received an estimated $20,716,652 in tax abatements. It will produce $21,840,024 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 57 jobs at an average wage of $30.56 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $586,085,854 and includes 302 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $260,150,000 and create an estimated 171 construction jobs.
  • Safe Life Defense in Clark County received an estimated $288,532 in tax abatements. It will produce $12,853,427 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 50 jobs at an average wage of $24.59. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $526,300,998 and includes 377 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $2,319,300 and create an estimated 18 construction jobs.
  • SAMSARG in Lyon County received an estimated $126,646 in tax abatements. It will produce $6,417,240 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 25 jobs at an average wage of $53.88 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $725,722,245 and includes 180 jobs, in addition to an estimated 46 construction jobs.
  • Sonoma Creamery in Washoe County received an estimated $696,713 in tax abatements. It will produce $5,841,253 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 50 jobs at an average wage of $24.40 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $349,840,323 and includes 117 jobs. This project will also make a capital investment of $6,238,412.
  • ZLINE Kitchen and Bath in Washoe County received an estimated $69,333 in tax abatements. It will produce $2,998,317 in tax revenues over the next 10 years. The company will initially create 25 jobs at an average wage of $26.86 per hour. The estimated economic impact over the next 10 years is $80,199,234 and includes 77 jobs. This project will also make a capital equipment investment of $593,894 and create an estimated four construction jobs.

Go here to learn more about GOED and the tax incentives it offers on behalf of the state of Nevada.

People: Michael Thomas joins Greater Nevada Credit Union as VP of Marketing

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Greater Nevada Credit Union announce recently the addition of Michael Thomas as Vice President of Marketing.

Thomas is responsible for leading marketing strategy for Greater Nevada’s products and services.

“Michael brings a long track record of successful marketing communications expertise to our organization,” Danny DeLaRosa, Chief Development Officer at GNCU, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to welcome a seasoned professional to our team, and we’re confident that Michael’s experience and vision will open up new opportunities to benefit our members and the communities we serve.”

Thomas has served in executive-level marketing, communications and sales leadership roles across greater Reno-Tahoe for more than 20 years.

He most recently acted as the Chief Revenue Officer for Rehearsal, an international software company delivering video solutions for online training and sales enablement, according to a Nov. 20 press release.

Previously, Thomas was a Partner and Chief Marketing Officer for Noble Studios. Thomas also held positions at the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority and worked in broadcast journalism at KTVN 2 News.

“I’m excited to be part of the dedicated and community-centric team at GNCU,” Thomas said in a statement. “Our commitment to our members can be seen and felt throughout all facets of Greater Nevada. It is a culture where everyone is ready and willing to be a helpful resource to members and non-members alike.”

Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Saint Mary’s College. He is an active member of the Reno-Tahoe community and has served on several nonprofit boards. Thomas is a native Nevadan who resides in Reno with his wife and three kids.

NNBW 12 Days of Giveaways sponsor profile: KPS3

Today, the NNBW is kicking off its 12 Days of Giveaways promotion. It’s an opportunity to highlight and support local businesses while bringing holiday cheer.

From Dec. 3-18 (weekdays only), readers can enter each day for a chance to win gift cards, products and services from local businesses thanks to the support of our amazing sponsors.

Go here to enter and learn more and to enter for today’s prize.

Additionally, throughout the promotion, we’ll be featuring each of our sponsors. Today, we profile Reno-based KPS3.

About KPS3:

Radical in our ideas and opinions, responsible in our approach and thought. For brands and ideas to take hold in today’s marketing landscape, you need both crazy and grounded. Meticulous and speedy. You need to be prepared to pivot when the opportunity arises to make the largest impact you can. Being nimble to what is working, adjusting for making a larger impact. This is how we’ve grown over the past 30 years from a traditional PR firm to a fully integrated agency, delivering purposeful branding, marketing and public relations focused on moving companies toward growth.

Rob Gaedtke, KPS3 CEO & President
Courtesy Photo

Learn more:

Local 169 donates $12,500 in gift cards to 7 Northern Nevada nonprofits

RENO, Nev. — Laborers Union Local 169 announced last week it donated $12,500 in grocery store gift cards to seven Northern Nevada nonprofits.

According to a Nov. 25 press release, the nonprofits are: Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

“We at Local 169 know many families are struggling to put food on the table right now, and we want to help the local community meet this basic need,” Eloy Jara, President of Laborers Union Local 169, said in a statement. “That’s why we decided to help with this donation totaling $12,500. We hope this provides food to those needing it most at this critical time.”

With Nevada’s unemployment rates spiking due to business closures ordered as a result of the pandemic, many charities are reporting greater demand for services this holiday season, Jara said.

“These seven nonprofits are pillars in our Northern Nevada community,” he said. “We’re happy to ensure we get this financial assistance in the hands of those that need it most. Together we can make a difference. United we stand.”

Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) received 100 Raley’s gift cards of $25. RISE serves some of the most vulnerable in the Reno/Sparks area at Our Place, a women and family shelter. It houses 114 women, 25 families, and 18 seniors who would otherwise be homeless.

Jocelyn Lantrip, Food Bank of Northern Nevada spokesperson, accepted the $2,500 donation of Raley’s gift cards on behalf of the charity. The need for emergency food within northern Nevada has drastically increased from the 18.2 million meals the Food Bank distributed during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the press release.

Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada (CCNN) also received $2,500 in donated gift cards. CCNN Chief Development Officer Jennifer Hill said the gift cards will help the nonprofit’s clients extend their grocery budget.

Local 169 also presented $1,250 worth of grocery store gift cards to each of the four veterans’ organizations.

Nevada State Council President Lee Jackson accepted the donation on behalf of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).

“When passing out the gift cards to veterans at the Silver Spring food bank, several were in tears,” Jackson said in a statement. “That $25 gift card goes a long way and means a lot to our vets.”

Local 169 represents more than 1,200 workers in northern Nevada, primarily in construction, and is a member of LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

People: Sarah Melton new VP of Ecommerce at Reno-based SuppliesOutlet.com

RENO, Nev. — Sarah Melton has joined Reno-based SuppliesOutlet.com as the company’s new Vice President of Ecommerce.

Melton has enjoyed a successful 13-year career in the ecommerce industry and is excited to join one of the biggest names in ink and toner suppliers, according to a Nov. 13 press release.

Melton began her career working for Seattle-based linens company Sin in Linen. From there, Melton took the position of Director of Ecommerce with designer clothing store Baby & Company.

She eventually moved to a new role as Ecommerce Manager for Komando Shop, a site associated with the popular Kim Komando Radio Show, where in her first year, she increased physical electronics profitability by 8% and increased ebook sales by 22%.

“Supplies Outlet has a great team and I’m excited to join,” Melton said in a statement about her new position with SuppliesOutlet.com.

SuppliesOutlet is the direct-to-customer division of OnlineTechStores, a Blackford Capital portfolio company, which is one of the most active consolidators in the print supplies industry.

Founded in 2000, Blackford Capital is a private equity investment firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that acquires, manages and builds middle-market manufacturing, distribution and service companies.

Portland-based Killer Burger eyes Reno for franchise expansion

RENO, Nev. — In recent years, Portland, Oregon-based food and drink businesses have been sinking their teeth into Reno’s restaurant scene.

So much so, a pocket of downtown Reno, on Pine Street, where Portland transplants Pine State Biscuits and Sizzle Pie reside, has been dubbed Little Portland (PDX coffee chain See See Motor Coffee Co. brewed in that area for three years before closing in October 2019).

Killer Burger is looking to become the next Portland eatery to bring its array of flavors — including its famed Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger — to the Biggest Little City.

Billing itself as a “rock ’n roll burger hangout,” the 10-year-old chain plans to open at least two franchises in Reno as part of its five-year growth plan, said Brian Hebb, director of development at Killer Burger.

“There really isn’t anywhere else in the West I would be more excited about getting into,” Hebb told the NNBW this month. “Reno’s got a mix of demographics we feel like we can thrive in. When you have a town that has a good share of wealthy folks, a good working class, college students, and an engine in the economy in tourism and technology, that’s a real sweet spot for us because we appeal to a lot of different kinds of people.

“Hamburgers are apolitical — everybody loves them.”

Though the company doesn’t have specific locations mapped out for franchises, Hebb said Killer Burger is especially attracted to the Reno neighborhood where its fellow “Portland compatriots” are operating.

“We’ve had the benefit of seeing ‘Portland, Nevada’ happen down on Pine Street,” Hebb said. “I’ve seen how they’ve done and really taking encouragement from their experience down there.”

A look at the exterior of the Killer Burger restaurant in Sherwood, Oregon.
Photo: Killer Burger

Killer Burger has also zoomed in on the I-580 interchange, near the Whole Foods, in South Reno. Hebb said the company is open to moving into second-generation restaurant spaces rather than building from the ground up.

“What we do is simple and straightforward — we make burgers and fries,” said Hebb, noting Killer Burger eateries typically seat 50-75 people. “It means we’re very flexible and can fit into a lot of different arrangements.”

Each Killer Burger restaurant would create an average of 18-25 part-time and full-time employees, he added.

According to the company, franchisees will have to meet a net worth requirement of $1 million for a single unit, with $150,000 of liquid capital. The total investment range runs between $289,300 and $704,500, and includes a $40,000 initial franchise fee.

Killer Burger says it is looking for both single-unit and multi-unit franchisees, with ideal candidates being “transitioning professionals, seasoned restaurant owners/operators and skilled entrepreneurs.”

“I would point out that none of our current franchisees had been in the restaurant business prior to joining Killer Burger and they’re all now looking for a second location,” Hebb said. “It’s pretty gratifying to know that we can take somebody from another industry and bring them into ours and make them successful.”

Reno is one of a few regional western markets targeted for expansion by Killer Burger, which currently has 11 locations in Oregon and Washington. The company, which intends to quadruple its presence over the next five years, also plans to bring its burgers to Boise and Denver.

While ambitious growth strategies might seem dicey during a pandemic, Killer Burger has continued to be profitable amid the COVID crisis, according to the company.

“Our brand loyalty is certainly a part of it,” said Hebb, noting the company invested heavily in an online ordering system when COVID hit. “I think that we’ve been able to stay busy because we keep delivering what people have expected. And we’ll keep doing that.”

What’s Up Downtown: Updated timelines for several Reno developments (Voices)

RENO, Nev. — Downtown Reno is building a future with more activity than it has experienced in ages — with or without a pandemic, the plans for a multitude of developments are moving forward as intended.

We are most excited about Reno City Center by CAI Investments because it will bring much needed enhancement to urban life in the core of downtown. This live, work, play renovation project will transform the former Harrah’s casino property into a hub for downtown life and economic activity.

The timeline for the west tower, which will include apartments, retail and public green space, has been updated to 14 months, so it will be a little over a year until that highly visible area experiences a complete metamorphosis.

Along with City Center, the ReTRAC Plaza, slated to be beautified by July 2021, will bring new life and vibrancy to the area immediately surrounding our world-famous Reno Arch.

Keystone Commons, a large super-block retail and housing development at the corner of Keystone & I-80, has recently secured their project funding and has started moving tractors and dirt getting ready to go vertical with a parking garage and four-story apartment building with 305 units.

Major brands the developer has confirmed leases with include In-N-Out Burger, Starbuck, and Firehouse Subs. This project will create much-needed liveliness in the western portion of downtown, along with the nearby massive Reno Neon Line also in development.

The large multi-use project known as T3, located directly west of Greater Nevada Field, seems to have recently gained some new momentum. Permits have been submitted to begin preparing the site for a five-story apartment complex and a five-story parking garage.

They also plan to include retail and open space in this project. With a projected completion in 2023, there could still be a lot of changes, and it is encouraging news that they are moving forward with a prominent downtown site in need of development.

Screenshot of the Downtown Reno Partnership’s downtown development map; view the full version at downtownreno.org/about-downtown-reno.
Screenshot: Downtown Reno Partnership

The Mod at Riverwalk Apartments was completed earlier this year as a motel remodel that turned the former Reno Riviera weekly motel into an upscale micro-unit living facility. The same developer is now doubling down with a new building project on the same block.

Mod2 (tentative name) will be five stories with 69 multi-family units. There is also potential for another residential project at the old Greyhound bus station site, and the developer is seeking an abandonment of Stevenson Street to create a public greenway that would join the two blocks together.

There are a couple of townhouse developments at various stages of completion. CasaBella Townhomes on the corner of First and Bell streets is looking beautiful and nearly finished. Construction has begun on Pine Street Townhomes located off Sinclair Street between Ryland and Pine — this project will include forty-nine multi-family units.

With the University of Nevada, Reno expanding its sphere of influence, student housing has become a trending industry in downtown.

Canyon Flats will soon be ready to open for students to move in starting in January, and directly across Center Street, construction is expected to begin soon at 661 Lake — which recently expanded their plans to include a 13-story tower of market rate apartments, along with their six-story student housing complex.

Screenshot of the Downtown Reno Partnership’s downtown development map; view the full version at downtownreno.org/about-downtown-reno.
Screenshot: Downtown Reno Partnership

With more students living downtown, there will be a stronger demand for student-focused amenities and services.

Tolles Development Company is working on a 7,000-square-foot retail center at 705 N. Virginia St. on three parcels that border the freeway off-ramp and have been a blank canvas for many years

There are some other properties to keep an eye on in the Downtown Reno Partnership’s Target Area for Revitalization #1, including 210 N. Sierra, the Whitney Peak Hotel expansion on the west side of their hotel, the old Vino’s building, and of course, the ReTRAC Plaza Beautification Project.

We would like to thank and give a shout-out to the Downtown Makeover blog (check out their great work at downtownmakeover.com) for curating a lot of this information and for often being the first to know about all the hot new developments in Reno.

More information on these and future developments can also be found on our downtown development map located at downtownreno.org/about-downtown-reno

“What’s Up Downtown” is a monthly Voices column in the NNBW authored by Alex Stettinski, executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. Reach him for comment at astettinski@downtownreno.org.

Permits for $1.3 billion Lithium Nevada mining project expected by Q1 2021

RENO, Nev. — Lithium Nevada’s parent company, Lithium Americas, recently published third quarter results and updates, stating that permitting on the massive Thacker Pass lithium mining project in rural Northern Nevada continues as planned.

According to a Nov. 16 press release outlining the company’s third quarter results, the project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement was released this past summer by the Bureau of Land Management, with the 45-day public comment period completed in September 2020.

The company expects to receive all major permits by March 2021 (end of first quarter). 

In a nutshell, the roughly $1.3 billion project entails the manufacturing of high purity lithium chemicals as a byproduct of mineral processing near Thacker Pass in northern Humboldt County near Orovada; the project site is located roughly 50 miles north-northwest of Winnemucca.

The company refers to Thacker Pass as “the largest known lithium resource in the United States and the next large scale lithium mine.”

“The project will be developed as an open-pit mining operation using conventional continuous mining equipment. Given the soft nature of the deposit, minimal blasting and crushing is anticipated,” according to the company’s project page. “… With the reliance on sulfuric acid, the project will involve the construction of a conventional sulfuric acid plant at site. The sulfuric acid plant will convert molten sulfur into low-cost sulfuric acid reducing transportation costs and providing a low-cost source of power.

“In addition, the sulfuric acid plant contemplates a co-generation facility, which the PFS assumes will provide enough carbon-free electricity to power the entire project with excess power being sold to the grid.

In preparation of project construction, the company’s process testing facility in Reno continues to operate with COVID-19 protocols in place, according to the Nov. 16 report; as of Sept. 30, the facility has produced over 15,000 kg of high-quality lithium sulphate.

If permits are received by early 2021, full-scale construction would begin later in the year, with the company projecting the third quarter of 2022 as an estimated target date to start production.

Lithium Nevada staff collect bulk samples from the project site last summer.
Courtesy Photo: Lithium Nevada

From a financial standpoint, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development in September approved nearly $9 million in tax abatements for the project, which are expected to be granted for the first phase of the construction period.

Per the company’s GOED application, the project expects to bring in more than $65.8 million in new local and state tax revenue and $9,198,147 in indirect taxes, for a total of just over $75 million.

It says it plans to hire 113 people at an average wage of $37.84, with an expected $103 million spent on equipment by year two of operation; 136 people are expected to be hired by year five of operation, and 265 people after 10 years. Additionally, GOED estimates the Thacker Pass project will create more than 2,800 construction jobs.

According to previous reports, the proposed project will have a life expectancy of approximately 41 years; however, more recent updates published on the company’s project page indicate a mine life of 46 years.

“Based on discussions with potential customers and joint venture partners, the company is continuing to assess changes to the parameters of its definitive feasibility study to target a higher production capacity than the 20,000 tonnes per annum of lithium carbonate equivalent and revised product mix,” according to the Nov. 16 press release. “The company expects to provide an update on the definitive feasibility study in early 2021.”

The “definitive feasibility study” is a technical document developed by Lithium Nevada and consultants that describes the mining, chemical process, equipment, product and quality, costs and economic performance of the project under an assumed production capacity.

The company continues to explore financing operations, including the possibility of a joint venture partnership. 

The project is operated by Reno-based Lithium Nevada Corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vancouver, Canada-based Lithium Americas Corporation.

The demand for lithium is expected to grow more than 500% by 2025. The Thacker Pass mine has the potential to produce approximately 25% of global demand.

Lithium is also on the list of critical minerals published in May of 2018. The report accompanying the list concludes that the demand for lithium used in rechargeable batteries, especially for electric vehicles, will continue to grow.

With $25K donation, GNCU is first corporate sponsor of Audacity Fund Reno

RENO, Nev. — Greater Nevada Credit Union announced this month it is contributing $25,000 as the first corporate sponsor of Audacity Fund Reno, which provides funding, education and support to local business owners from underserved populations.

According to a Nov. 23 press release, the GNCU contribution kickstarted the fund’s $2 million capital campaign to invest appropriate capital in main street and tech companies with underrepresented founders.

“Greater Nevada Credit Union is driven by our passion to help Nevadans and Nevada’s businesses live greater,” Wally Murray, president and CEO of Greater Nevada Credit Union, said in a statement. “Like many credit unions across America, Greater Nevada was formed more than 70 years ago by a small group of people who felt underrepresented and cut off from sources of capital. That’s one reason we’re ecstatic to assist with the Audacity Fund Reno to provide a new source of support for businesses that are the backbone of our vibrant community.”

The Audacity Fund Reno is a field-of-interest fund at the nonprofit Community Foundation of Western Nevada.

All contributions to the fund support local businesses founded by women, minorities, LBGTQ+, people with disabilities, veterans and other underrepresented groups.

“In administering the city of Reno small business relief fund for minority- and women-owned businesses, requests for financial assistance were seven times the $1 million allocated,” Danielle Rees, managing partner of the Audacity Institute, a Renoa-based organization focused on supporting diverse entrepreneurs, said in a statement. “With COVID cases on the rise locally, the need to support our small businesses is greater than ever. Investing in local and inclusive businesses provides a solid return on investment. Every $10,000 invested in a local women or minority-owned business results in an annual local economic impact of $90,000.”

The Audacity Institute will provide group education and individual mentoring to the cohort of companies selected to receive funding.

Education topics are tailored for the stage and type of company ranging from topics such as business structures, licenses and permits; to finance and accounting; to market research and sales; to operational adaptation of business practices; to long-term funding strategies.

“I am beyond thrilled to support the Audacity Fund and Greater Nevada Credit Union,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, who’s also owner of local businesses Clothes Mentor and Plato’s Closet, said in a statement. “These community partners are showing once again that when Reno works together, we can thrive. The focus on boosting women and minority-owned companies shouldn’t stop even in the middle of the pandemic. Our businesses continue to suffer but lifelines like this can help workers and owners across our region. The work goes on and we can do this together.”

Applications for funding from the Audacity Fund will open as soon as the first $250,000 is raised.