Even with a new contract Mesquite Regional Business, Inc., will be judged solely on its performance, according to George Rapson, one of the five city councilmen who voted Tuesday for a new agreement.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, if they do not produce, we’ll pull their funding and they’ll be out of business,” Rapson said during the discussion about how the city is to address the opinion issued by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office in mid February.
Deputy Attorney General George Taylor opined that MRBI, based on “the totality of factors,” is comparable to a public body and should operate subject to the Nevada Open Meeting Law.
“That is the ultimate hammer, if you will,” Rapson continued, “If they don’t produce, they do not get funded. So I’m inclined to go with amending the agreement, give them the flexibility and autonomy to run this as a business.”
The council agreed unanimously for the city and MRBI’s legal counsel to draft a new agreement.
The council mulled several choices: do nothing and face possible fines, comply with the opinion, terminate the agreement or amend the contract.
According to the supporting material given to the council, Taylor said on March 11 that, “MRBI is free to alter its relationship with the city so that the resulting private nonprofit is not subject to the OML (open meeting law)
after application of the totality of factors test.”
Taylor did not describe how that relationship should be changed. That will be worked out between the legal counsels for the organization and the city and come back to the council at a later date for approval.
MRBI has no other source of funding than the city, so under a new contract, it still must accomplish the goal of economic development to avoid the “ultimate hammer” of the council no longer funding it.
But the term “economic development” means different things to different people.
Gaye Stockman, MRBI’s President and CEO, told the MLN earlier this month that economic development means finding “primary jobs” for Mesquite.
“A primary job is one that creates a product or a service that is exported outside our area,” says Stockman. “These are jobs that bring outside money into our community and create higher paying jobs.”
Retail stores are secondary businesses. They recycle money within the community without improving the overall economy.
Mesquite has only a handful of companies that create primary jobs, examples being Primex Plastics, LOADTEK and the Do It Best warehouse.
Expanding the number of primary jobs in Mesquite is proving difficult. Recently, Mesquite was one of five finalists for a new warehousing facility, but was not selected as the unnamed company believed the area didn’t have enough available workers.
To be more competitive, Mesquite must “Focus on our strengths and minimize or strengthen our weaknesses,” says Stockman.
Strong points for Mesquite are, in part, a result of the economic downturn of the last several years. Mesquite has more than 730 acres of available land in Mesquite Technology and Commerce Center, and over 4,000 acres of other lands ready for development.
In addition, “Most of our utility lines are less than 20 years old, giving us an advantage over many other areas,” Stockman said. Water is also an advantage as both St. George and Las Vegas are reaching capacity while Mesquite still has available adequate supplies for new companies.
Stockman added, “We can also meet or exceed expectations on build-out, permitting and zoning issues.”
But there are reasons there are few manufacturing and warehousing jobs in the area. Stockman points to the lack of a large skilled workforce and not having natural gas available as two of the major problems in Mesquite.
“It is frustrating that there is a major natural gas line, the Kern River Pipeline, just 13 miles from Mesquite, but the cost is over a million dollars a mile, plus there is over $10 million in connection costs,” she added. Despite the cost, MBRI is working with the pipeline company to try and find a way to make it profitable for an extension.
MRBI has developed a plan to attract warehousing, which takes advantage of the city’s immediate access to the interstate and a location that is halfway between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.
And with the federal approval of Exit 118 at the west end of the Technology and Commerce Center, Mesquite should become more attractive to warehousing companies.
“We are currently contacting 48 warehousing companies by letter, with follow-up phone calls and emails. These are not random, but rather companies that our research has identified as looking for new facilities and markets,” Stockman also notes that letters and calls are sent to at least three company officers “To make sure we get their attention.”
While MRBI is working for new primary jobs, Stockman knows that real success for the organization won’t come until a major new employer is located in Mesquite. “We have had some minor successes, but we need a major warehouse or employer,” admits Stockman.
The MRBI board has five directors, but two of those positions will become vacate because of term limits.
What other changes in MRBI’s structure and relationship with the city is yet to be determined.
Only one thing remains constant. If MRBI does not produce results, it will not be funded.