Funding will lead to better rail and highway connections for the city
With the awarding of a $25 million federal grant, Fernley’s logistic hub received a big boost Wednesday to connect Interstate 80 to U.S. Highway 50, expand the dual access of two rail lines and become an important supply chain hub.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, along with Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Carlos Monje, Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington Jr., and other local and state leaders touted the grant for the Victory Project that will increase the efficiency of the supply chain, make goods more affordable and expand logistics and manufacturing capacity throughout the region.
“You don’t have to live directly in Fernley to benefit from this,” Buttigieg said, standing in front of the unfinished section of the Nevada Pacific Parkway east of the burgeoning community. “The whole Reno area, the whole northern Nevada region and beyond benefits with better connections, better highway connections, better railway connections. It makes this entire economic engine run more smoothly and makes it more attractive for others in considering this region.”
Buttigieg’s visit is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Building a Better America Tour, and he visited this week five other areas that received major grants: Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio and New Hampshire. The city of Las Vegas also received a $23.9 million grant for its GREENVision Stewart Avenue Complete Streets. Half of the funding projects are located in rural communities, and the other half is designated for urban areas,
The Fernley grant, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides Fernley with the means to be an integral hub in the West for the distribution of goods. The grant will complete a major link between two major federal highways by funding road, bridge and rail improvements; creating an inland port designed for additional rail capacity; increasing the efficiency of the supply chain; and helping lower the cost of goods leaving Fernley.
Edgington, who’s been at the forefront of Fernley’s rise as a major hub, said the area will see an increase in thousands of jobs.
“It will result in 10,000 jobs in this complex, and we’ve been working with Mark IV Capital,” Edgington said in his prepared remarks. “We’re very happy to see this project move forward. This grant is the single largest grant awarded to the city of Fernley. Everyone played a role.”
Mark IV Capital, a privately held company based in Newport Beach, California, announced in July 2019 plans to develop a 4,300-acre premiere distribution, manufacturing and commercial center. In their announcement, Mark IV Capital acquired the Crossroads Commerce Center for $45 million and rebranded it as the Victory Logistics Center.
Prior to Mark IV Capital’s announcement, Polaris broke ground in 2018 on a 475,000-square-foot distribution facility at the northern end of the Nevada Pacific Parkway near Interstate 80. Construction finished during the second quarter in 2019. At the time, Polaris became the first businesses to commit building in the industrial part.
A study from The Boyd Company, Inc., considers Fernley an ideal location for warehousing and distribution because of low costs, location and business climate. The analysis of comparative distribution warehousing costs in port and intermodal-proximate cities cites Fernley as one of the top 25 “logistics-friendly” cities in the country.
Fernley’s plans for development, however, took a backseat to the restrictions placed upon businesses in Nevada in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. With restrictions lifted, all entities involved in the project are moving forward.
“This is a great example of how public-private partnerships can work,” Edgington pointed out. “This project (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law), relieves traffic congestion and provides another route to (U.S. Highway) 50.”
Currently, Fernley has only two access points to U.S. 50 — an offramp west of Fernley near two major truck stops, and a route that spans railroad tracks with an overpass and then connects to a roundabout. Edgington said this has been a group effort involving the Nevada Department of Transportation, Lyon County, the Nevada Congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The growth has transformed Fernley from a small, sleepy farming community to a player on the world’s economic stage. Cody Wagner, a member of the Fernley Planning Commission, said the community was a small, rural town in 1987 with fewer than 5,000 residents.
“Fernley embodied the typical tight-knit culture where everyone knew and looked after everyone else,” he said.
Beginning in the 1990s, Wagner said Fernley began to grow, and the area saw its economic opportunities increase and diversify, and different companies began to invest heavily in the area. The Tahoe Reno Industrial Center 16 miles west of Fernley began to attract businesses in the mid-to-late 1990s. The 107,000-acre industrial park is now home to more than 100 companies and their fulfillment centers such as Walmart and PetSmart. The Tesla Gigafactory is the largest employer with more than 7,500 workers who commute to the industrial center.
As a result, Wagner said Fernley has been improving its role in creating supply chain throughout the region.
Likewise, Nelson Araujo, who was appointed Nevada’s infrastructure adviser in April, commended the leadership in Fernley for having the foresight and perseverance to develop the Nevada Pacific Parkway connection.
“Without their foresight, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
Araujo added what others had said during the morning: the grant and finished projects will increase the supply chain and lower prices for northern Nevadans.
“This is a huge deal,” Araujo said. “They (Fernley officials) have been asking for this for a long time. We are seeing this coming as a reality.”
Araujo said the infrastructure is a critical priority for the development.
Monje said local and state leaders are making the right investments with rail and road improvements.
“We had the resources to take this wish list to construction,” Monje said, adding Buttigieg’s advocacy “paved the way” for the project’s completion.
Buttigieg also thanked Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen for their support of the Fernley project. He said Sisolak also recognizes the need for infrastructure.
“We get to say yes more often to good ideas,” Buttigieg said of the Fernley project.
Buttigieg revealed Fernley’s grant proposal stood out among the hundreds that were submitted.
“You have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
In his remarks, Buttigieg commended Edgington and how the community stepped forward with good ideas and a shared sense of purpose. Before becoming the Transportation Secretary, Buttigieg served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and he understood the needs proposed by Fernley and the state.
“I bring that local perspective of having been a mayor and knowing how it’s exactly like to be knocking on the big federal door like the Department of Transportation,” he said.
Buttigieg said he wants the Department of Transportation to be both a user friendly and familiar agency. He said South Bend is like Fernley. Each city doesn’t have an army of lobbyists knocking on Transportation’s door.
Additionally, both Buttigieg and Edgington looked at the local impact. Buttigieg said the project, for example, will help the dairies of Fallon and other businesses in the area ship their products to market. Buttigieg, in replying to a question, said he developed a better understanding of the state’s needs with its growth when he visited Nevada numerous times as a candidate in the 2021 Democratic presidential primary.
Likewise, Edgington said the industrial center will provide great jobs, and he envisions residents living in Fallon will also drive the short 25-minute commute to Fernley for employment. Before COVID, the Churchill Entrepreneurial Development Association said estimated U.S. government figures in 2019 showed about 3,000 Churchill County residents, except military, commute daily to jobs around the region. Edgington said many workers travel to Fernley from Lovelock, which is a 50-minute drive west on Interstate 80.
Plans have been presented to the Churchill County Commissioners about creating a rail park at Hazen, midway between Fernley and Fallon.
“This (the Victory Project) could jumpstart those programs,” the Fernley mayor said. “They’re important to Fallon.”
Edgington said the jobs will be there for everyone.
“No one can see the county lines in the dirt,” he said.