Economic insights from NNDA: Expanding industrial space key to Northern Nevada’s future | FirstNationsFocus.com

Economic insights from NNDA: Expanding industrial space key to Northern Nevada’s future

Rob Hooper | Special to First Nation's Focus

This 1.55 million square foot industrial building in Sparks has been empty since 2014 when the Kmart Distribution Center shut its doors.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — With the Great Recession finally behind us, the recent federal tax cuts are creating opportunities for economic growth. Resident companies are planning to expand and out-of-state companies are exploring business-friendly environments like Nevada. This is creating a steady demand for suitable industrial space throughout the Silver State.

The challenge is being able to meet that demand, as industrial vacancy rates remain low. For example, since 2010, NNDA and its commercial real estate partners reduced the industrial vacancy rate of the Sierra Region (Carson City, Douglas County, Lyon County, and Storey County) from 26% to 3%. This has led NNDA to both U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants and the Nevada Certified Sites Program (nevadacertifiedsites.com) as catalysts to address the growing demand for industrial space.

NNDA and its partner counties have been targeting areas for redevelopment and revitalization of underutilized and vacant properties, particularly those known as brownfields. As defined by EPA, a brownfield is real property whose expansion, redevelopment or re-use may be complicated by the presence or perceived presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

A brownfield is often an abandoned, idled or underused industrial or commercial facility that may have left contaminants behind. Examples include railroads, gas stations, oil refineries, dry cleaners, liquid or chemical storage facilities, heavy manufacturing plants, and sites where pollutants were dumped. These sites are not perceived as suitable for any business purpose until they are assessed and cleared for redevelopment.

EPA’s Brownfields Program, established in 1995, has evolved into a proven, results-oriented program that has changed the way contaminated or perceived contaminated property is addressed and managed.

The program empowers states, communities, federally recognized Tribes and other stakeholders in economic development to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.

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EPA has found that when a brownfield is cleared, in addition to protecting the health of local residents and the environment, it can increase residential property values 5-15.2 percent near the brownfield. Whether located in a remote or commercial location, successfully assessing and clearing a brownfield can provide excellent opportunities for economic growth and development of a community or region. Potential benefits include an increased tax base, the creation of new jobs, the utilization of existing infrastructure, and the removal of blight.

NNDA was awarded its first EPA Brownfields Coalition Assessment Cooperative Agreement in 2014. This three-year grant provided $600,000 for us to work with our coalition partners, Churchill County and Lyon County, to inventory, characterize, assess, and conduct planning and community involvement related to brownfield sites.

A second three-year grant for $600,000 was awarded to NNDA in October 2017, and we are working this time with Carson City and Douglas County. NNDA has applied for a third grant, which it hopes to be awarded in 2018. This funding would continue the work begun in Churchill County and Lyon County.

Key to expanding industrial space in the Sierra Region is the Nevada Certified Site program, which NNDA administers. A Nevada Certified Site designation serves as a pre-qualification indicating that a property's title is clear, it possesses sufficient utilities and other infrastructure required for commercial use, is properly zoned and has adequate transportation access for distribution and logistics.

In a nutshell, a Nevada Certified Site reduces the risk often associated with development by providing detailed and current information about a site including price and availability, utilities, access, environmental concerns and potential site development challenges. It results in turnkey properties for businesses that want to move forward quickly.

Currently, three sites have been certified and three others are going through the process. In November 2017, Reno Lumber became the first company to close on a Certified Site for its expansion to Carson City. For brownfields that have successfully completed the assessment process, EPA has granted NNDA permission to use some of our grant funds to cover the cost of getting eligible sites certified.

Now that NNDA has successfully piloted the certified sites program in our state, it is determining how it can help other cities, counties, Tribal communities, and economic development stakeholders adopt and implement it. This would help to quickly build an inventory of needed and qualified industrial space throughout Nevada.

Rob Hooper is executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA), the state-designated regional development authority for the Sierra Region of Nevada. The organization can provide economic development assistance to Nevada tribal communities. For more information, visit http://www.nnda.org or contact the NNDA tribal liaison, Valerie Meléndez, RSIC tribal member at vmelendez@nnda.org and 775.624.3962.