By MARK WAITE
Nye County Commissioners took a bite of the apple Tuesday and terminated an economic development agreement with EDEN Inc., ending an association that lasted many years.
A few years ago Esmeralda County terminated its relationship with EDEN when the letters stood for Economic Development of Esmeralda and Nye County.
Commissioners last June tabled a request by the county manager to terminate the memorandum of understanding with EDEN and transfer its $55,000 grant to the county, pending a six-month study. Bill Verbeck, the director of the Pahrump Great Basin College campus, agreed to serve voluntarily as EDEN executive director temporarily and gave monthly updates to county commissioners.
On Tuesday commissioners approved a suggestion by County Manager Rick Osborne to terminate the agreement and notify the Nevada Commission on Economic Development funding for the organization will be redirected to Nye County effective April 1. The state commission only refers grant money and business relocation inquiries to recognized economic development authorities, which can pursue state incentives and U.S. Economic Development Administration EDA funds.
The request to NCED said that although Nye County established a relationship with EDEN Inc. 10 years ago to serve as the economic development authority for the county, the responsibility for economic development initiatives has increasingly fallen to county administration. It mentions new opportunities for jobs in renewable energy and utility-scale electrical production.
The downturn in the economy, particularly in the construction industry, and the cut in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for Yucca Mountain have prompted the county to reevaluate its spending to determine its best return on investment, the county said.
Osborne outlined plans to appoint an ombudsman already on the county payroll. That led to complaints by Commissioner Joni Eastley that he would appoint Nye County Nuclear Waste Project Office Director Darrell Lacy to even more tasks, a statement Osborne denied. Osborne said he has talked to three people who have expressed an interest in the job.
“One of the things that has been sorely missing in my opinion is someone to hold the hand of the new companies that have a desire to locate here in the county so that they can maneuver through what many of them have come to believe is a maze of regulations and hoops that they need to jump through in order to get projects to completion,” Osborne said.
The Rural Nevada Development Corporation will be contracted to evaluate the impact of county services on existing businesses, to promote business expansion and retention and provide entrepreneurial support. Businesses would be interviewed one-on-one to determine what existing services provided by the county are beneficial or not beneficial and new services the business community would like the county to adopt.
County commissioners will be designated representatives in their district for cultivating new business. A designated contractor would be asked to provide help on siting projects, coordinating local resources, planning, permitting and regulatory processes.
The ombudsman would be a liaison between the county and potential developers. The 2007 Community Economic Development Strategy CEDS must be updated to reflect the economic recession, the county said.
In one of his updates, Verbeck outlined plans by Denny’s Restaurant to build in Pahrump on Highway 160 north of Carl’s Jr. Restaurant. But company representatives withdrew their plans, according to the planning department.
The monthly EDEN reports also detailed meetings with Gruppo Oil and Energy on establishing an algae farm in Pahrump. Verbeck said EDEN was competing with four other states for an aircraft storage facility at Tonopah. He detailed meetings with Sun Green and Soliant, a company interested in manufacturing solar systems for roof tops and parking lot. They met with De la Grande and Sons Inc. of Hollister, Calif. about locating a groundwater construction company in Nye County.
Allan Parker, EDEN president, who also works for the RNDC, endorsed the county proposal. Parker said in the last few months EDEN has become closer to county administration and the county’s economic development contractor, BEC Environmental, to improve communication and work on the economic development process.
“We got a better understanding on the respective goals and responsibilities each of these organizations have. I realize we are both in serious straits from an economic point of view,” Parker said. “We have to do more with less and I believe having seen the scope of work the county had to submit to the state Commission on Economic Development its a good plan.”
At an EDEN board meeting next week, Parker said the organization will move away from economic development and more toward workforce development. He said there will be a name change but the organization will retain its 501 c non-profit status.
The county already contracts with BEC Environmental for renewable energy and economic development projects. BEC Environmental was awarded a second change order worth $100,000 Tuesday to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability projects.
BEC is working on lease agreements with two renewable energy developers at Tonopah Airport. In addition, Solar Millennium and Solar Reserve have already received records of decision from the U.S. Department of the Interior to move forward on constructing solar power plants.
The second change order brings their total current contract to $300,000.
BEC Environmental said it maintains a relationship with more than 20 renewable energy companies and forwards contact information for property representatives with potential sites. The company provides technical information to developers and coordinates meetings with county, state and federal officials. BEC maintains daily reviews of grant opportunities on 57 projects the county requested funding assistance.
But BEC noted, “One of the most significant challenges facing the development of an energy-related industrial cluster in Nye County is the lack of available infrastructure, particularly transmission capacity.”