Sheri Samson
MCEDA Director Shelley Hartmann, Lt. Col. Scott Bishop of the Hawthorne Army Depot, Todd Poland of Top Rail and Vice Chairman of MCEDA Randy Samson were on hand for the Western Nevada Development District meeting last week.

The Western Nevada Development District (WNDD) was hosted by The Mineral County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA) at a special Board of Directors dinner meeting, held at the El Capitan on June 14. With area mayors and economic development directors invited, the MCEDA’s newly appointed officers were on-hand to greet each visitor and hand out “swag bags” full of donated gifts and literature from within Hawthorne’s business and tourism community.

As representatives came in from counties such as Storey, Churchill, Douglas, Pershing, Lyon and towns like Fallon, Fernley, Sparks and Carson City, the seating arrangements gave way to a casual environment of mingling. Many of the 50 attendees, included those from the public sector who were joined by current business owners and potential business owners reviewing Mineral County for future endeavors.

LTC Scott Bishop, Hawthorne Army Depot’s Commander, began with a visual overview of the base operations and its history. He spoke of many visiting agencies which operate within the scope of the base, including drone training and the National Guard, who were recently at Walker Lake’s Monument Beach training in desalination processes. Commander Bishop showed his strong support in creating a business community which utilizes the voided, unused portions within the base land to make it substantially more valuable to the United States Military and its investment. With an emphasis on using collaborative efforts, Commander Bishop stated that business agreements could assist both the military and the community in extended growth, which would be cohesive with one another, while the base remains concentrated on its current focus of ammunitions.

Walt Hackford, Superintendent of Mineral County School District, shared the plight of converting to ground source heating and air while turning away from old methods. He shared the financial saving amounts by eliminating not only propane and diesel fuel costs, but also dismissing the expensive inspections and costly repair call-outs.

“As work currently begins in earnest, we are moving toward soon becoming the first school district within the State of Nevada who converted not only to ground source heating, but went completely green. Our voters stood with us and saw the benefit and savings as they recently passed the bond for this conversion cost, but with our tremendous savings our bond will be paid off in just over 11 years,” Hackford shared.

Greg Jacobs, civil service employee for the Hawthorne Army Depot, gave a practical review of the military base in size and allocation of land, with possible stretches of business consent being available but governed by the Federal Government in necessary approvals.

Todd Poland, CEO of Top Rail Solutions, presented the newly accepted relationship between the Hawthorne Army Depot and the Walker River Paiute Tribe, with the major benefit of expanding 147,000 acres of land use and 300,000 linear feet of train track, after being dormant for over 30 years.

“Top Rail is now on board to begin operations July 2017. We will be developing the best non-hazardous shipments for business interests to our rail customers while serving the land owners in the best possible manner. This area has been so desirable due to the dry climate, proximity and the security within the base. There has been a desired access to establish this dry rail storage that is crucial within the crowded Reno railroad market,” Poland explained.

Top Rail has been in an on-going negotiation, working closely with Shelley Hartmann, Director of MCEDA and coordinating with the base commander for ARMS and SOC/HWAD “Right of Way” agreements, plus the Paiute tribal members for longer than four years. With this agreement completed new business markets will open, creating off-sight storage in unused bunkers for steel companies; require local repair and maintenance personal to fix the actual rail cars and other companies are quickly coming forward with an interest in covered storage and commodity transfer stations.

An important aspect was that Congress just approved that business agreements are Army insured for a 50-year lease, insuring that investors can be confident in a long-term agreement, surviving any changes in base contractors and leadership. The military will also benefit due to maintenance of the rails, enhanced preparedness and become a regional hub in their own shipments. Many speakers shared that this agreement may become the gateway to development for Mineral County.

Other speakers, such as Lewis Smith, CEO of Telesis Systems Inc., were on hand to share other business endeavors possibly on the horizon, as their owners had been in town for days touring the base and reviewing the area. The possibility of teaming up with existing entities to develop further opportunities was also expressed as more positive solutions were explored.