Small business thriving in Nevada

By Chris Hunter

Vice President/Business Development Officer Nevada State Development Corporation

A new sense of optimism is moving across the rural areas of Nevada, from Winnemucca and Elko to Austin and Eureka — and a lot of it is focused on the small-business community in and around Ely. Where just a few years ago businesses were looking at a pretty bleak future, money and investment are on the move once again.

The new energy comes from some of the oldest industries, such as mining, while businesses in recreation, the restaurant field and support services for homes and companies are looking to expand as well.

Our nonprofit firm, Nevada State Development Corporation, is committed to helping small businesses secure financing that leads to business growth and new jobs throughout the state.

Business owners can secure business loans for real estate and major equipment purchases at highly competitive rates with as little as 10 percent down.

Rural businesses have a special friend in one of our development partners, Mary Kerner, who serves as the chief executive officer with Rural Nevada Development Corporation. Kerner says there is good reason for business optimism and the new momentum is real.

“Now that we are in recovery mode from the economic downturn, it’s like a perfect melting pot,” Kerner said. “Things are really coming together. Small businesses are really thriving. The ones that just hunkered down and held on and that weathered the storm are doing well. The banks are getting on board, portfolios are coming back around. More money is being funneled into lending programs.“

Money is moving, banks are moving again because Nevadans are spending money again. It’s all about jobs. A lot of things are helping the Nevada business climate. Unemployment numbers are down. Nevada is a national leader in job growth.

“Then there’s the bigger global picture, with Google and Tesla and Microsoft and Switch, the great big firms expanding in Nevada. They may be feeding some of the rural counties as well. In Ely, we’re not directly affected by those, but other rural areas may be feeling those effects.”

With a nonprofit like Nevada State Development Corporation or Rural Nevada Development Corporation, it’s far easier for business owners to navigate the loan process. “With our SBA 504 program, you have to have a bank on board. Typically, the lender comes in at 50 percent, Nevada State Development Corporation comes in at a subordinated position at 40 percent and the borrower at 10 percent,” Kerner said. “That works quite well, except when the lender can’t quite get to the 50 percent. So NSDC started calling us in to come in and partner with the lender to do a shared-first position to mitigate the risk. We came around to being an alternative lender, providing a need to fill a gap, and getting funds to the borrower to get the project done. Our goal is to get more dollars out there into the economy.”

Particularly in Ely and all of White Pine County, tourism and recreation are getting bigger than ever, according to Kerner. Once a well-kept secret, the region’s attractions are being discovered by more and more people all the time.

“With Great Basin National Park being designated an International Dark Sky Park, that’s driving more visitors,” Kerner said. “The Great Basin Observatory is creating even more opportunities. White Pine County lends itself very well to outdoors activities year-round because of its geographic location. When Las Vegas is hitting 120 degrees and even hotter in your car, we may be averaging a pleasant 88 degrees. And if you like the snow, this is definitely the place to be in the winter, with ice fishing and those kind of activities.

“When you have a tourism and recreation board that does a lot recruiting the way we do, it makes a huge difference. It’s how you market it and how people perceive it, and we’ve always been here doing our thing. It’s like every weekend there’s something great going on.”

Festivals and other small-town attractions throughout rural Nevada, most notably along U.S. Route 50 and U.S. Route 6, are bringing increased numbers of visitors to the region, according to Kerner.

“I think the small-business picture in the rural areas of Nevada is thriving,” she said. “I talk to a lot of people all over the state, and that’s the image I’m getting. My [small business loan] cap is only $250,000, so I’m a little guy, but that can be a very important piece of the puzzle in getting a deal done.”

The Rural Nevada Development Corporation team is comprised of seven people in the organization’s Ely headquarters.

“Out of the one office, we run three housing programs and two small-business loan programs,” Kerner said. “We win awards for being creative and for being dedicated. I’ve worked here 15 years, and I would say our group right now is the most dynamic we have ever had. Our partners, including banks and NSDC, are also invaluable to our mission.

“Thank goodness for NSDC. Without them, a lot of businesses wouldn’t be where they are today. They go the extra mile. They’ll drive out during your business hours to help you. They understand you’re running a business. They get it. If they weren’t here helping those small businesses, there would be a lot of dollars lost, and a lot of jobs lost, from Nevada’s economy.”

Chris Hunter is vice president/business development officer with Nevada State Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization that is authorized by the SBA to underwrite, process, fund and service loans through the 504 Loan Program. Nevada State Development Corporation has offices in Las Vegas and Reno. Call (877) 732-7101 or visit www.nsdc.com.

Mary Kerner is chief executive officer with Rural Nevada Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization serving the needs of rural Nevada communities by addressing critical issues such as affordable housing, down payment assistance, homeowner rehabilitation and small business alternative lending practices. It has received certification from the Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Call (775) 289-8519 or visit www.rndcnv.org.

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