What do you think about the success of the downtown revitalization matching grant program and where do you see the city’s downtown environment in five years?
One of the successes of the downtown grant is to do what it has meant to do, revitalize the downtown corridor to be more enticing for people to spend time downtown promoting pedestrian traffic. However, I do see some issues with it that stem from the regulatory framework and the advertising of the program. Specifically, constraints on building improvements. For example, when a business wanted to expand into a dirt lot that has been there for over thirty years (the dirt lot and the business), the Redevelopment Plan would have prevented the business from expanding, even though many of the surrounding buildings were of similar makeup. If the owners of the dirt lots off Fifth and Silver Street, as well as Fifth and Idaho Street decide to develop, it could be prohibitively expensive and prohibitively regulated which in turn lessens the viability of the project.
Another issue that pertains to the revitalization program is that many businesses do not know that they are qualified to enter the program. In fact, this last year, I believe, only three businesses applied for the grant.
This should be a program that businesses are utilizing and competing for.
We need to advertise this program more effectively. Whether through the Elko Chamber of Commerce or through having our elected officials go business to business promoting the project.
The increased buy-in from more businesses the better our town promotes itself to visitors from other areas of the country. This includes the industrial area near downtown and South Fifth Street that have history, culture, and diversity.
I envision the downtown in five years as a place that people from all over the United States want to come and explore the last true Wild West! There are various areas of the town that have history dating back over a hundred years, which we can use for people who are interested in experiencing Nevada but are turned off by the one trick ponies that are Reno and Las Vegas (gambling and shows). By expanding the pool of businesses, we could have a continuous draw to this town while also showing our history as a ranching, railroad, and mining town.
Would you consider giving tax breaks to large businesses to encourage them to locate in our community?
Yes, I am in favor of giving mild tax breaks to large businesses. This has worked wonders for Reno. They have diversified their economy by giving tax breaks. Reno went from tourism and warehousing centric to bringing high-tech industries like Switch, Tesla, and Microsoft. By applying this practice to Elko, we could continue to diversify our economy from mining and tourism centric to new areas.
One type of project that I envision is producing a geothermal power plant for energy production through a partnership with either NV Energy or Wells Rural Electric, or whomever wants to help bring this to reality.
We could also diversify our economy through warehousing, especially as Reno continues to ripen with high-tech industries.
We can bring their regional distribution to Elko.
While not nearly as exciting, we are located within four hours of four large cities. This could be an ideal place to get supplies and goods in from I-80, and distribute items to Twin Falls, Boise and Salt Lake City. It could also help facilitate more air traffic into Elko.
Alternatively, we could emulate Tulsa, Oklahoma, and their Tulsa Remote program (www.tulsaremote.com). This program brings teleworkers to their city to live and gives them space to work. We could market to those that are interested in this project, but do not want to live in big cities. This is especially appealing given the current situation of people working from home now and in the future. Granted our internet infrastructure would need a huge upgrade, but that process is well underway in Elko, albeit slowly.
Do you approve of closing or penalizing businesses for noncompliance with state COVID-19 mandates, and what changes would you make in local handling of the pandemic?
The changes that I would make in local pandemic handling is be willing to be the “bad guy.” Many of our local officials have scoffed at regulations by openly flaunting mask mandates, which in turn has led to the highest rate of infection in the state. This is unacceptable. Not only does this make people not want to come to Elko, it has disproportionately affected our hotels, bars, and restaurants.
I believe that the more that we wear a mask the more our economy can get back to normal and our children can get back to school.
However, I do believe that any type of penalty would be a waste of time and resources.
I am not in favor of penalizing an individual or a business because our police have more important regulations and issues to attend to.
Essentially, it should be tacit agreement, with our elected officials leading the way, with all of us in the body politic to accept the new normal (for the time being) and wear a mask, so we can open those that have been closed for the better part of six months that have managed to limp by this long.
In short, I recognize that we are not going to get 100% compliance and people must live their lives, but that also means many in our economy will be left out through no fault of our own.
Wear a mask when you are going to be in situations with people you don’t know for more than 15 minutes where you can’t social distance, practice proper hygiene, and practice personal responsibility.
The City of Elko is spending $30,000 in advertising to help promote local businesses since the lockdown. What other measures can be taken to help struggling small businesses?
Where are we promoting these businesses? Just in Elko. While that is helpful to a certain extent that is not helping our numerous hotels. $30,000 is drop in the bucket of what is needed. We need to be getting people into town to rent rooms and buy things from our businesses, which means advertising the town and what there is to experience. There is only so much the locality can do to help these businesses out. Especially, considering that most folks in the Elko area are willing to travel up to four hours to do a vast majority of their shopping, and have been doing so since I was in grade school.
I believe that we can use this time to re-think the way that Elko promotes itself. Especially, because a lot of the businesses that have been hurt the most are hotels. Our current city advertising program is regional. Regionally, these people have everything they need in their own city and have very little reason to travel to Elko.
Especially, when they have their own shopping and adventures that are similar to Elko.
The adventures they do not have access to in their state are an hour and a half closer than Elko.
In other words, if we continue to advertise in the same regional markets that have not been changed for over a decade, new ideas and directions must be seriously considered.
Other measures we can take are to create more community grants for infrastructure, with the stipulation that the contractor is a local business or within a few miles of town.
Another option is to help provide scholarships at Great Basin College for continuing education classes, like marketing, human resources, and business restructuring.
This would, obviously, take more in-depth discussions with Great Basin College and the community, but it could be a start for businesses that are looking for more insight in growth, further education, or both.
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