Out west, Reno is often seen as something akin to Detroit: a city that depended on a single industry for far too long. Or in Reno’s case, industries: first gold mining, then divorces, and for the past half-century, gambling (or as the industry now likes to call itself, gaming).
Lately, there’s been a lot of angst in Reno about what the city’s next steps will be. Should it try to chase big technology names? Emphasize its proximity to Lake Tahoe and California? Or create a cool Reno that attracts young, hip residents to whom Reno’s notorious history is simply a matter of the past?
Last month, a group of journalism students at the University of Nevada, Reno, tackled all the issues facing the community on a blog called Reinventing Reno. Under my direction, the team — whose members were Cambria Roth, Zach Yeager, Zachary Volkert, Sage Leehey, Chanelle Bessette, Melissa McMorran, Nick Rattigan, Katherine Sawicki and Laney Olson — fanned out across Reno to find stories that look at Reno’s future.
Reno’s revival, according to the team, looks like it will rely on a collection of ideas and efforts, touching every level of the city’s economy. They include:
Big name businesses. Reno officials were ecstatic in late June when Apple announced a $1 billion, 10-year investment, writes Yeager. Apple is building offices in downtown Reno and a data center next door in Sparks, Nev. In exchange, Nevada gave the company $89 million in a special tax abatement.
Writes Yeager: “While some claim that Nevada is the latest to overpay for the Apple brand name, critics were assured that attracting Apple as the first mover will spark additional investment in the region. William Eadignton, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, said, “They have the potential to act as a catalyst.”
But some fear that Reno is getting only a slice of investment, when what it needs is an entire orchard of Apples. “…All Reno has proven able to attract is their support functions: the back-of-the-house operations that just need to get done. Where and by whom isn’t important, so companies pick wherever they can do them the cheapest. Fortunately or unfortunately, when people think of doing business cheaply, Reno is at the top of their list.”
Indie music. It’s a safe bet you wouldn’t put Reno on a list of the nation’s liveliest indie music capitols. But, Rattigan writes there’s an effort underway at creating a haven for indie artists, part of a bid to retain and attract more young people under age 21. He profiles the non-profit Holland Project, whose motto is, “Art. Music. Culture. By young people, for young people.”
The name Holland is a nod to the Vera Project, a similar all ages project based in Seattle, which is named after the Vera Club in Holland (aka The Netherlands). The organization’s music director, Clark Demeritt, says, “Reno has always had a pretty crazy Do-It-Yourself culture … it is a good fit for Reno, because if you want to see something you have to do it yourself.”
Read a Q&A with the Holland Project’s founder here.
Hip new business district. Ask anyone who lives in Reno about its most up and coming neighborhood, and you’re likely to hear about Midtown, which sits across the Truckee River a few blocks south of downtown Reno.
Bessette writes, “The movers and shakers of Midtown have created a cultural center that they compare to the styles of San Luis Obispo, Austin, and Portland, especially within the last two years. In this time, the area that was previously known for hosting rundown and abandoned buildings has exploded with newfound dining, shopping and cultural delights.”
Downtown movement. Visitors to Reno may not venture out to these places, but they are discovering some of the city’s new restaurants, bars, and developments along the riverfront, where a much-photographed attraction is the bridge where freshly minted divorcees threw their wedding rings into the Truckee.
One leader of the downtown revival is Mark Estee, a well-known California chef who once worked for Paul McCartney and whose Reno restaurant, Campo, bustles all day long with customers. Many come in for the gourmet pizzas he fires in a wood-fueled oven, others simply for an espresso.
Estee told Leehey, ““I want all the businesses looking (for locations) to know that there is opportunity available,” Estee said. “The more the merrier in my book. There is a hunger and a thirst for these things down here. There is clientele available. You just have to come in. You have to engage them.”
Deeper problems. One challenge, however, will be finding solutions for Reno’s abandoned casinos. As Olson reported, some have been converted into condos, while one development, CommRow, is taking a different approach. “Open for a year, it is providing entertainment with a rock climbing wall, restaurants, bars, and a club. General Manager Dean Hanson is hoping a hotel portion will be open in 2013.” Olson writes.
Another, more deep-rooted issue for Reno is its steep unemployment, which has led to homelessness for some, and hurdles for others in remaking their lives. The “no vacancy” signs at some of the city’s motels camouflage who actually lives there: a number of welfare recipients, including their children.
Roth spoke with two teens who are determined to overcome their difficult start, and to area activists helping low-income recidents, addicts and alcoholics. She also profiles Chuck Grimm, a leader in the Pathfinders Children Ministry, whose organization has about 150 children in grades K-12 that attend Pathfinders on Friday nights. Many families live in the rooms of Wonder Lodge Motel.
“The children are fed a meal, play games, do a bible study, and we counsel,” Grimm said. “Kids will do anything to come because one, they enjoy it and two, it gets them out of their home environment.”
Content Source : Forbes