Q-and-A: Northern Nevada officials must work together to tackle housing
RENO, Nev. — This year, the city of Reno celebrates its 150th anniversary. With that in mind, the Northern Nevada Business Weekly spoke with a few long-standing companies that have been doing business for decades in and around the Reno area.
One such company is Title Service and Escrow, which has served Northern Nevada for more than 45 years and holds one of the largest title searches in the region.
The NNBW recently spoke on the phone with Eric Jon Maiss, president of Title Service and Escrow, to talk about the past, present and future of business in and around the Biggest Little City.
NNBW: How have you seen the city of Reno evolve since you’ve been here?
Maiss: I was in the fifth grade when we moved here in 1978, so it was a great place to grow up. It was much more innocent back then, there was much more freedom to move around; the population was probably half of what it is now. Probably the biggest landscape change that’s happened over the last 20 years is the downfall of gaming. Reno based almost its entire economy on casinos and gaming, about 60-70 percent came from California (residents). The downturn of the economy combined with the Native American casinos approval in California really changed Reno. So you had far less tourism happening, less airline flights, all of those things. Reno had to really figure out how to reinvent itself. It’s still kind of going through those throes; certainly, the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center changed a lot of things and given Reno an opportunity to become something different.
NNBW: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the real estate title industry?
Maiss: I’d say technology is probably the biggest change in the real estate industry. If you go back even as recent as 20 years ago, if you were a customer looking to buy a house, you had to go to an agent because the information was nowhere. Technology really changed that because the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) went online. Now the general customer can do their own research; you now have services like Zillow to see if their property is increasing in value.
Of course, the fraud going on in our industry is very, very significant and getting larger. Wire fraud is the No. 1 threat to our industry at this point. About five years ago, the wire fraud in our industry was about $400 million. This past year, it was $10.9 billion. So technology has played a positive role and a pretty significant negative role.
NNBW: What’s the biggest challenge facing the city of Reno and Northern Nevada as a whole when it comes to the economy?
Maiss: I think it’s really dealing with the growth. Anytime you start seeing growth in the area, you have the people who want it to stay the way it is. If you’re looking at Lyon County, Churchill County and Storey County, where the industrial center is, water is going to really play a large role in how much expansion can occur in this area.
Reno is running out of space. I’d say the biggest challenge is trying to absorb the growth that is happening. Between the exodus out of California to a number of states, including Nevada, combined with the industrial center’s needs, there’s a shortage of affordable housing.
NNBW: Speaking of that, how should city officials and community players tackle the housing issue to set the region up for success for the coming decades?
Maiss: If you look at TRIC. EDAWN, which did a study around the time Tesla was approved, showed a conversion size of about 50,000 citizens increase within a 50-mile radius around the TRIC park. That’s on the low side; it could be upward of 150,000 new citizens. And so to deal with that you have two issues going on. We talked about water being a major, major issue, particularly outside of Washoe County. On the other side, Storey County, where TRIC exists and most are going to work, there really isn’t any housing, and no real plan for housing. So that leaves it to the surrounding areas to house these people. Reno-Sparks right now has really been absorbing the brunt of it, which is why we have such a housing shortage.
And to house these citizens to these different communities, they have to consider the amount of education space, they have to have more police and fire … those are all state mandated rules. Storey County is collecting most of the revenues for the businesses that are in the industrial center, and they don’t have any of the expenses of housing the employees.
There really should’ve been an economic development region within the state and legislature and counties, so there could be a sharing of responsibility of the industrial center as well as the costs of doing all of that. Roads are going to be expanded, they’re putting in pipelines to move water and sewage around, there are really massive projects that need to move on to make this a reality. Right now, all of these counties and municipalities are working on their own and there’s no cooperation.
What I’m suggesting is not a normal thing. But to me, it’s really the best solution because of the impact the industrial center is going to have on the 50-mile radius of all of Northern Nevada.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Government officials attending the summit included Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen (District 32), Mineral County Commissioner Chris Hegg, Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe, and Lyon County Manager Jeff Page.