I’ve been reading the BurnCards site for a while. It’s one of a thriving community of blogs that have sprung up around Reno. I don’t write about Reno much on this site, because there’s plenty of people doing that, but this article by Ken Manz really caught my eye. It’s called “Attract Businesses to Move Here: Wrong Approach?“, and it’s all about how we not only need to be talking about bringing more jobs to the area, we also need to talk about what kind of jobs to bring. Do we want to aspire to be little more than a tax haven for high tech companies that are headquartered in other states? Or do we want to have our own unique industries and economy, one that can’t be found anywhere else? This is relevant to Carson not only because what’s good for Reno is good for the whole area, but especially now that we’re in the early planning stages of the City Center project downtown. This project seems to be so aimless; a big component of it is the office space, buildings and buildings of office space, but as yet no one seems to be interested in filling all this space. The developers were hoping that State agencies would move in, but the state showed no interest. And why should they? There is a huge cost involved in relocating offices, and agencies that are currently leasing space in other office parks around the city would see no benefit in breaking one lease just to take up another. The overall plan for state agencies should be to consolidate into big state-controlled office buildings, like the Bryan Building on Stewart Street, and its planned twin that may one day rise behind it. Not to be under the thumb of whatever kind of convoluted management is going to be in control of City Center.
So, then, where does that leave City Center? The state agencies don’t want to move there. Other businesses are just happy where they are now; they’re either in their location because they love it, or because it’s what they can afford. The number of businesses that can be persuaded to move downtown just because it’s downtown, and there’s some mystical advantage to that, is probably pretty low. Downtown Carson is stalled right now, and the way to jump start it is not to build empty office space and hope businesses show up. This relates back to the BurnCards article because we have to think about what kind of businesses we want to have in Carson, and in City Center. And we all have to be creative, because for the same reason that businesses won’t relocate across town just because there’s a shiny office building for them, neither will out-of-state businesses relocate to Nevada just because. Whatever innovation is going to happen in Nevada needs to come from within, it needs to come from us. We’ve got to stop hoping that someone else from the outside will come here and save us. We’ve got to save ourselves by doing things that make the outside take notice. That’s why it’s been my assertion, even since before it was a real thing, that the City Center project needs to be some type of attraction that makes people want to come to it. Something that excites locals and tourists alike, that becomes an actual destination that people go out of their way to get to. I don’t have any ideas myself exactly what that could be, but in this town of nearly 60,000 people there’s got to be one or two good ideas floating around. Put some kind of white-hot core at the center of downtown, and that’s what will attract businesses to the area. That’s where revitalization has to start.
It may seem counterintuitive, but a down economy is the best time to invest in business and start new things. There are plenty of people hungry for work out there, all we need are some good ideas to spark a revolution.