The Area Development Frontline series offers insight into the innovative strategy being taken by businesses that are succeeding, intelligence on locations that are deploying winning policy to attract investment and talent, and reports on the industry trends that are affecting and shaping the global business climate now and into the future.
Dean Haymore, the head of Storey County, Nevada's building department, was told for 15 years that his plans for a massive industrial park there were crazy. When he arrived in the county 24 years ago, the land was largely undeveloped. But today, it's home to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the largest industrial park of its kind in the world.
"Storey County would have been broke and swallowed up by the surrounding counties if we did not have that park," Haymore says.
The center encompasses 107,000 acres, more than half of the 264-square-mile county, the smallest in Nevada. Construction required not only building facilities - which include a 1 million-square-foot Walmart distribution center - but developing infrastructure, sewer systems, and power generation.
Since real estate developer Lance Gilman purchased the land in 1998, a bridge over the Truckee River, a diamond interchange on Interstate 80, 10 miles of a four-lane freeway, and 100 miles of roads throughout the park have been built. The self-sufficient center has its own fiber-optics cable service, water, and high-pressure gas distribution. And since the land was purchased outright, there is no debt on the property.
Partners in Business
One of the first companies to move in was Mars, which built a pet food facility after Haymore encountered Forrest Mars by chance on a scouting trip in the desert. Eventually, Kaiser Aluminum, Home Depot, PetSmart, Alcoa, and Golden Gate Petroleum also inked deals.
Haymore says businesses are attracted to the center because of its location and government efficiency.
"The majority say it's location, location, location," Haymore says. "Nobody wants to be in California, but they want to be within one day's shipping of California."
The permitting process is also notably fast. Building permits can be had within 30 days or less, and industrial uses are pre-approved and fast-tracked.
"Many companies have completed buildings and moved in within 180 days or less," Gilman says.
The building department's business-friendly attitude also speeds the process.
"We consider ourselves partners with all our businesses," Haymore says. "I can go right to the governor or to Senator Reid and say, we have a challenge. The reason it works is we have a team that works as a team."
The New Comstock Lode
Besides accommodating businesses, the center has transformed the Storey County economy. Before it opened, the county relied on tourism revenue. County seat Virginia City was famous for the Comstock Lode's gold and silver deposits. But Storey had virtually no tax base until the center moved in. Today it employs 10,000 people, and the county assessor has already billed nearly $6.7 million from the center this year. It's also lifting economic development.
"They are a key asset in our portfolio," says Chuck Alvey, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. "It gives us all the options we need for various businesses."
Despite bumps due to September 11 and the recession, the center continues to grow. A 7,000-acre parcel was recently sold to one of Japan's largest power companies. Both Gilman and Haymore expect a sustained build-out.
"There's a lot of land out there," Haymore says. "It's unbelievable until you go out there and see it."