Fox File #87: Many Mega Sites
Last week I had the opportunity to lead a group to visit the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in Storrey County, Nevada. And all I can say is, “wow.” The purpose of the trip was to see what we might be able to adopt or suggest to participating communities as a best practice into Utah’s Mega Site program. We learned a lot about what Storrey County has done to attract billions of dollars of investment from some of the world’s most innovative companies and 20,000 + high-paying jobs.
The history of the 100,000 acre development is fascinating (trust me, you’ll want to look it up). But what they have been able to accomplish seems like nothing short of a miracle. They have created a world renowned industrial center in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Yes, the site is only 15 minutes outside of Reno, but at the time the development really started to take off there were only 600,000 people within a 50 mile radius of the TRI. Storrey County itself has only 4,000 residents but its daytime population swells to over 25,000 thanks to the massive employment center at TRI. The development has successfully attracted investments from several technology companies, but perhaps the most notable investment is the Tesla Giga Factory. The Giga Factory employs between 12,000 - 15,000 people depending on the time of year. Tesla’s announcement really put the site on the map.
We wanted to figure out their secret to success. And if I had to sum it up, I’d say the key ingredient to their success is collaboration that enables speed. The developer and County work hand in hand through a binding development agreement that aligns their investment attraction interests. Throughout our visit, both the developer and county administrator shared stories of issuing permits in the middle of the night and jumping on airplanes together for international trips over the weekend to keep business processes moving. It was a real reminder of the value of collaboration and how highly companies value time. TRI and the hand-in-glove relationship between the developer and county transformed the region, which was previously reliant on extractive industries and shrinking gaming revenue.
Another interesting takeaway was the notion of “Mega Sites” clustering. And in some ways it makes a lot of sense. The capital outlay for the infrastructure is significant, so why not maximize its use? In other ways, we saw how having so many industrial uses within proximity could be a challenge as moving people in and out of the site is difficult. We further learned that without a supply of workforce housing proximate that such explosive growth has strained some of the surrounding communities.
We also heard the County Administrator share that many of the companies with whom they work enjoy being relatively remote. Thus a takeaway is that some of our rural communities with ample land might be able to position themselves similarly.
All in all, it was a fascinating visit. Thanks to Robert Kern with Stewart Title for facilitating it.