By Akki Patel, Reno Gazette Journal, August 9, 2023
This opinion column was submitted by Akki Patel, founder and CEO of LRE & Companies.
It seems everywhere you look there are headlines about shuttered storefronts, the death of retail and the economic “doom loop” of big cities. But when you look at smaller communities, the opposite seems to be true. While big cities across the country are still navigating the long recovery from the pandemic, smaller communities such as Fernley are continuing to grow.
In short: Small communities are seeing big ideas pay off — and Fernley is a prime example.
With a steady population growth and recorded population of nearly 23,000 in 2020, Fernley is located 35 miles from Reno and is literally and figuratively positioned to be an economic hub of Northern Nevada. For starters, its infrastructure: The city has a nearby cargo airport located in Reno, adjacent rail lines and Interstate 80 that can transport goods easily and swiftly. In addition, Fernley has strong market fundamentals: a growing population, a business-friendly political climate and increasing employment opportunities.
This growth cycle in the past decade was sparked in large part by the addition of Tesla, Panasonic and Apple in nearby Reno. The difference, however, is that, unlike Reno, Fernley has ample affordable housing. People are more likely to buy a home there — and with more job opportunities there’s no reason to commute to the bigger city.
After more than two decades in the industry, I’ve developed a keen sense of small markets bound for big growth — and Fernley is definitely at an inflection point. Victory Logistics District and the Tesla Gigafactory at TRIC have spurred a large influx of people to the region, with Fernley’s population growing as a result. And retail development is still a huge opportunity that has yet to be fully tapped.
This starts with awareness.
The growth that is happening in northwestern Nevada is real and will only continue. As a developer, my biggest struggle is how to educate people on what Fernley is. While national brands have been here for years, a lot of upcoming brands have yet to discover it. Currently, if you want to spend the day shopping for apparel residents have to travel to Fallon or Reno. But I would argue that Fernley isn’t just primed for residential growth, but retail growth as well.
And why not? With more people living in Fernley, it makes sense to build out a retail sector, create more jobs, attract more visitors and drive the local economy. Some may call this a long shot, but I can attest that it’s already happening. My company, LRE & Companies, chose Fernley as an ideal spot for the Fernley Promenade, a 13-acre mixed-used development project consisting of industrial, retail and a hotel.
As headlines elevate the struggles of big cities, it’s easy to overlook the progress being made in smaller markets. But that would be a mistake. The time to look is now — as small markets continue to do big things.
Akki Patel launched LRE & Companies in 1999. He holds an accounting and finance degree from University of San Diego and is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization as well as several other business advisory boards. He writes about business trends and outlooks at AkkiPatel.net. He also serves on Dignity Moves Advisory Board.