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After 32 years, Carson Valley’s RAMAC Industries bids farewell

MINDEN, Nev. — Ray Robertson and Michael McLaughlin weren’t sure what to expect in 1987 when they co-founded RAMAC Industries Inc., and little did they know their trail to success would lead from the Bay Area to Carson Valley.

RAMAC — a combination of the names Ray and Mac — last week closed the book on a business that primarily distributed BMW, Volvo, Saab and MINI Cooper wholesale auto parts to repair shops locally and nationwide.

At its peak, the company employed 29 workers at 2527 Aviation Way, located in the Carson Valley Business Park off Johnson Lane.

The Douglas County men have only good memories of their partnership.

“It’s been a good run,” McLaughlin told The Record-Courier. “It’s been a long run, and we’ve had lots of fun along the way.”

Robertson, who was joined in the business by his wife of 56 years, Brenda, emphasized that it was a lot of work.

“When people say, ‘Boy, you guys were lucky,’ I tell them we worked our butts off,” he said. “When we first opened up, my wife and I worked 90 days without taking a day off … receiving stuff, packing it up, putting it on the shelf. So it was a helluva lot more than good luck.”

Robertson originally hired McLaughlin to work at what was then known as World Wide Trading Company.

From left, Ray and Brenda Robertson and Michael McLaughlin in front of the RAMAC Industries sign. The business closed last week.
Courtesy photo

“Ray hired me from another company to help grow their Volvo and Saab program,” McLaughlin said. “That worked out well for both of us; I was the marketing manager and salesman, Ray was the executive vice-president and he was in charge of sales and purchasing.”

In May 1987 they opened the doors to RAMAC in Scotts Valley, Calif., near Santa Cruz.

“One day we were sitting in Ray’s office and we made the decision to do this,” McLaughlin said. “It took us six months and we manufactured 20 parts, hence RAMAC Industries. We got on the phone and started selling into the repair shop world and one thing leads to another. Ray was doing the purchasing and I was doing sales, and the company began to grow.”

Within four years, they were looking to expand and move to another location. The company’s direction took a turn one day after Robertson spoke with some hunting buddies.

“One of them asked, ‘Have you ever heard of Minden, Nevada?’ I said, ‘Where the heck is that?’ So I flew up here in the springtime, and found that it was a green and beautiful valley,” he recalled.

Added McLaughlin: “You called me from the airport here. I had no idea where Minden was. So my wife and I came up to Tahoe two weeks later and as soon as we hit the Valley floor, I said, ‘This is it. I’m here.’”

About eight months later they purchased property with a 1,600-square foot building on Nolin Road. They moved around the corner to a new 57,000-square facility in 2000.

McLaughlin has a college education, having pursued economics, while Robertson followed a path that could be called the school of hard knocks.

“I was in pre-med and engineering, but I didn’t study hard enough,” McLaughlin said with a chuckle when asked about his time at UCLA.

“I know how that works,” added Robertson. “I took a few classes and I went, ‘This is not for me.’ So I got into business … and here we are.”

RAMAC has been active in the community over the years, including contributions to such organizations as Boys & Girls Club and MEFIYI.

Brenda Robertson has been involved with the Douglas County Community Services Foundation, Crystal Angels, Community Emergency Response Team and the University Women, and in 2014, she was recognized as Carson Valley Citizen of the Year.

McLaughlin, who played tennis at UCLA, served as a tennis coach at Douglas High School, during which time he worked with 2009 boys singles state champion James TenBroeck.

Ray Robertson is also an avid hunter and has enjoyed success as a sporting clays shooter.

“I’ve gotten to where my legs and lungs are not as good as they used to be,” he said about hunting. “It’s harder to get up the hills and going down is hard on my knees.”

Robertson is now looking forward to retirement and Brenda already has a trip planned to visit their newborn great-granddaughter.

McLaughlin says he will continue his work with Chargerback, a Carson City-based software company that helps customers locate items they have lost while traveling.

“The software matches up the item that reported lost with the item that was found and facilitates the process or shipping and getting the item back to the rightful owner,” McLaughlin said. “The idea came from Brian Colodny. He had left a charger in a hotel and all he wanted to do was get his charger back, so that’s why it’s named Chargerback.”

Robertson and McLaughlin are proud of the legacy they’re leaving behind.

“The thing we’re really proud of, the average tenure of the employee who worked here was probably 15 years; one came over with us from Santa Cruz and he stayed to the very end, (salesman Ed Cardoza),” McLaughlin said. “And in some cases they wanted to come back and we would invite them back. We ran an organization that people not only liked to work at, but they wanted to come back to.”

Carson City RTC grappling with having developers pay for future traffic impacts

CARSON CITY,Nev. — The Regional Transportation Commission is grappling with how to have developers pay for the traffic impact of new development in Carson City.

The RTC on Wednesday, Nov. 13, approved a developers agreement with Dutch Bros. Coffee, which is opening a new location in the fast-growing area in South Carson City near the highway bypass.

The agreement calls for a pro-rata contribution of $66,000, or 5.5 percent, toward the cost of installing a traffic signal at South Carson Street between Clearview Drive and I-580. The share was calculated based on the number of vehicle trips on South Carson Street the new business is anticipated to generate.

The current estimated cost for the signal is $1.2 million, but that does not include the possible acquisition of rights of way, which have yet to be determined.

The city is doing a study of traffic circulation at the south end of town, which will better calculate the cost of the signal, but that won’t be completed until the spring, said Lucia Maloney, transportation manager.

But, development there is already underway.

“I feel conflicted because we negotiated with the business and I do not want to hold up his building permit, but I am unhappy. I don’t want future developers to think they can get the same deal,” said Supervisor Lori Bagwell, who sits on the RTC.

Bagwell’s main concern was that the cost of the traffic signal, which won’t be installed for years, will likely increase, between possible right of way acquisitions and a rise in the cost of construction.

Before that item, the RTC decided to table an item to approve a template for a developers agreement that would be used for all new development going forward.

After discussing it, the RTC directed staff to continue to work on the template and bring it back at the next meeting.

The RTC also heard a presentation on the re-timing of eight Carson Street traffic signals between Koontz Lane and Mica Drive. The new timings were started in May and have resulted in a 36 percent drop in travel times and 65 percent reduction in stops.

The work was done by University of Nevada, Reno, Center for Advanced Transportation Education and Research under contract with the city.

The Carson Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which meets before the RTC, awarded the RTC $143,900 for operation of the Jump Around Carson bus system and $122,405 to acquire two buses. All the funds come from Federal Transit Administration grants.

Nevada Builders Foundation raises nearly $9,500 for scholarships

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada Builders Alliance and its philanthropic arm, the Nevada Builders Foundation, in partnership with Battle Born Beer and Red’s Old 395 Grill, raised $3,870 at the Nevada Day parade, setting its yearly total at nearly $9,500.

According to a press release, the foundation began its Nevada Day celebration by hosting its 20th annual pre-parade breakfast buffet, selling a record 774 breakfasts at Red’s in Carson City.

During the parade, the foundation partnered with Battle Born Beer, serving suds to over 150 parade attendees while collecting donations for the scholarship fund.

Through the addition of funds raised from the parade, the foundation has raised nearly $9,500 in 2019. Each scholarship is worth $500, currently allowing the organization to fund scholarships for 18 semesters or for nine individuals during a full year.

The foundation will hold its last fundraiser at its Nevada vs. UNLV tailgate party on Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Foundation members will be selling raffle tickets for a Nevada basket, which will include four tickets to the Nevada vs. UNLV rivalry game later that day.

During the tailgate party, the foundation will be pouring mimosas and bloody marys for tips and donations. Raffle tickets are $20 for five tickets.

Go here for information on Nevada Builders Alliance and its upcoming events.

The Nevada Builders Foundation is a recently launched nonprofit focused on providing scholarships for Nevada students pursuing careers in the construction industry.

Reno sisters open wellness-focused interior design company

RENO, Nev. — A new wellness-focused interior design business opened recently near downtown Reno.

Flow Designs is female-owned, focusing on “finding balance, wabi-sabi and flow in the home, and encourages a happy and healthy home by creating space in areas, sustainably sourcing materials and furniture free from harmful toxins,” according to a press release.

The business, locate at 129 Bell St., celebrated a grand opening Nov. 8, and officially opened on Nov. 11.

“Our main purpose as a business is to be a resource for our community in helping to create a holistic flow in their homes that inspires them to make changes that promote mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, because the mind, body and soul, and the home, are all connected,” Kristen Giacomini, co-owner of Flow Designs, said in the press release. “The way you set up your home is an investment in your wellbeing, just like a gym membership or a healthy diet, or a yoga session.”

According to the company’s website. Kristen launched the business with her sister, Katie Giacomini, who both grew up in Truckee and went to high school at Bishop Manogue in Reno.

The sisters drew inspiration to create the company from their mother, Suzanne Russell Giacomini, who died at age 58 six months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor — inspiration that honored their mother’s vision by uniting the things she loved most; family, art, kindness and design.”

With giving back in mind, Flow Designs on Nov. 8 also launched its “Golden Knob” pay-it-forward initiative. According to the press release, each Golden Knob recipient will receive a gift of a free service from the business — and help determine the next recipient.

Go here to nominate someone for a future Golden Knob award.

Staked with $2.3 million grant, UNR takes on ‘NEWIR’ manure research

RENO, Nev. — A team of researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno is taking a new environmentally friendly approach to turning manure into fuel or fertilizer.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded $2.3 million to a four-year project led by the chemical and materials engineering department at the University.

The project, led by Chemical and Materials Engineering Associate Professor Chuck Coronella, is titled “NEWIR Manure: Nutrient, Energy, and Water Innovations for Resource Recovery.”

It is a systematic and multidisciplinary approach to study and develop a solution to environmental effects created by current concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The growth of CAFOs over the years helps with dairy and meat production, but addressing the challenge of sustainable manure management at large-scale CAFOs is significant.

CAFO-caused pollution of ground and surface water can be detrimental to arid climates like the ones in Nevada and California.

The project proposes technology to recover valuable energy, nutrient content and water from manure and reduce environmental impacts on surrounding air, water and land. The new technology uses hydrothermal carbonization or HTC, a chemical process converting organic compounds to structured carbon.

Previous attempts at turning manure into fuel or fertilizer have been difficult because it can be costly and difficult to handle a lot of it.

“Our goal is to make CAFOs sustainable, with no smell or pollution,” Coronella said. “We have worked with a handfuls of farms in Fallon [in Churchill County] and plan to study long term animal feeding operations.”

Coronella says that algae can be grown from the HTC-processed manure. Algae are a well-known feedstock option, and collaborators plan to study its nutritional value for animals.

Its overall success could significantly reduce the environmental footprint of dairy and cattle feed operations, along with increased food production capacity. An economic analysis will be performed to look at engineering, feedstock, animal nutrition and the lifecycle cost analysis.

The team includes: Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Sage Hiibel; Kim Rollins, former professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno and currently at the University of Connecticut; Pablo Cornejo of California State University, Chico; and Antonio Faciola at the University of Florida and formerly an assistant professor in the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources. The project is a collaboration with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain and will include exchange of scholars over the duration of the four-year project.

“This project will have a direct benefit to communities and industry across the country,” Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “It is a major award that reflects the high competitiveness of the principal investigators, even more advancements in the chemical engineering department for research and the commitment of the College to be nationally and internationally competitive.”

Mike Wolterbeek is Communications Officer for the University of Nevada, Reno.

Inaugural ‘Nevada Manufacturing and Technology Forum’ set for Nov. 19

RENO, Nev. — Nevada Industry Excellence is hosting the inaugural “Nevada Manufacturing and Technology Forum” next week in an effort to build a strong voice for manufacturers and tech companies in Nevada.

The free event is scheduled from 7-9 a.m. at Lincoln Electric, 1170 Trademark Drive, No. 101 Reno.

Aside from participating in a discussion on how Northern Nevada manufacturers are embracing Industry 4.0, attendees will learn cybersecurity tips for manufacturers and take a tour of Lincoln Electric.

According to event promotional materials, Mark Anderson, director of NVIE, will open the event, followed by discussions led by Brian Wilcox, Chief Information Security Officer of Blackridge Technology; and Shaun Rahmeyer, Administrator at the Nevada Office of Cyber Defense Coordination.

While the event is free, registration is required. Go here to do so, and to learn more.

Resort near Donner Summit hits market for $6 million

SODA SPRINGS, Calif. — For those tired of sharing snow with the Lake Tahoe masses, and are plush with an extra $6 million, a recreational resort has hit the market just before winter.

Kingvale Recreational Resort off Interstate 80 in Soda Springs, about eight miles from Donner Summit and 45 minutes or so west of Reno, has been listed for $5,999,000 by California Outdoor Properties.

The 297-acre property is a sledding and tubing destination, especially for residents in Sacramento and the Bay Area.

The listing says a concessionaire runs snowmobiles in the winter and ATV and dirt bikes in the summer. There are existing roads and expansion opportunities include a zip line, ropes course, an electric bike trail system and a wedding venue.

The resort has a 90,000-gallon water tank on-site and is a former site of a horse rental operation where guided tours would go into the neighboring Tahoe National Forest.

The purchase would also include a permit to mine surface granite boulders used for landscaping and a 20-year lease on a pizza restaurant.

The listing says the property grossed $500,000 in 2018.

According to Zillow.com, the property last sold for $1,042,000 in August 2017.

Boutique bridal business opens in Midtown Reno

RENO, Nev. — A new bridal boutique business recently opened in Reno’s Midtown district.

Moonlight Lace, located next to Lokal Salon and above Piñon Bottle Company and Noble Pie at 777 S. Center St., “features a broad collection of bridal gowns from designers around the world, select bridal accessories and a small retail store,” according to a press release provided to media prior to the company’s Nov. 9 grand opening.

Natalie Mills said she opened Moonlight Lace because she wanted to “bring a little more variety to our region.”
Courtesy photo

“I love Reno, I love Tahoe, I love our community. I hope I can serve it well,” Natalie Mills, owner and founder of Moonlight Lace, said in a statement. “I’m so full of gratitude for the support I’ve had from local businesses and the midtown district. I hope we are part of the long history here.”

According to the release, Mills was inspired to open the store by the boutiques she visited around the country in her wedding planning process years ago.

“I wanted to bring a little more variety to our region and give brides here more options for great service when they’re on the hunt for their gown,” Mills stated. “Reno is growing and I’m excited to expand the offering and help some of the brides with more specific tastes be themselves on their special day.”

Moonlight Lace offers made-to-order dress prices range from $1,800 to $6,000, among other offerings. Go to moonlightlace.com to learn more.

Reno, Sparks fulfillment centers to hire 1,085 seasonal workers

RENO, Nev. — Radial, an omnichannel commerce technology and operations company, recently announced plans to hire 1,085 seasonal workers at its Reno and Sparks fulfillment centers to support increased demand for the 2019 holiday season.

According to a Nov. 5 news release, a recent study published by Radial found the number of U.S. shoppers who reported purchasing at least $100 of goods per month online jumped this year to 59.8 percent.

Given the rise of ecommerce, there are now well over 1 million warehouse workers fulfilling online orders in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Job opportunity in this sector has skyrocketed, with an 87 percent increase in available jobs since 2009 and a 5 percent increase from 2018 levels,” according to the press release.

In Northern Nevada, Radial operates two fulfillment centers — one at 2777 USA Parkway, Sparks, the other at 4910 Longley Lane, Reno.

Seasonal workers hired to join full-time staff at the locations for the holidays “enjoy the benefits of competitive hourly wages, opportunities for overtime, and on-the-job training,” according to the press release.

“We’re thrilled to be creating so many additional jobs in Reno and are excited to welcome back the seasonal workers who return each year,” Andrea Crawford, Senior Manager, Contingent Labor Program at Radial, said in a statement.

According to job postings listed for the Reno and Sparks locations, wages for seasonal positions such as Warehouse Material Handler and Warehouse Fulfillment Specialist range from $13 to $17 an hour, with most offering a 30–a-week hour guarantee.

Across America, Radial employs nearly 3,000 full-time employees at more than 20 fulfillment centers. The company serves many major retailers, including Aeropostale, Cost Plus World Market, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Neiman Marcus, PetSmart, and Urban Outfitters, to name a few.

To learn more about Radial’s seasonal job openings in Reno, visit Radial’s career page here.

Panasonic boss to discuss ‘disruptive innovations’ to Nevada’s economy

RENO, Nev. – Allan Swan, president of Panasonic Energy of North America, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s University of Nevada, Reno College of Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series.

The free lecture is set for Nov. 20 at the Milt Glick Ballroom, 4th floor, inside the university’s Joe Crowley Student Union.

Swan, who began his role with Panasonic in September 2018, leads the Panasonic team at the Tesla Gigafactory in Storey County in helping produce lithium-ion batteries used by Tesla in all the company’s cars.

According to Nov. 12 news release from UNR, Swan’s talk will focus on Panasonic Energy and the company’s next 100 years, including the disruptive innovations; perpetuation of a unique employee-focused philosophy; and impact the company is having on Northern Nevada.

Swan, a graduate of Southampton University with a master’s degree in global supply chain management, previously was Senior Vice President of Operations for the Defense Sector in the United States for Rolls-Royce.

He’s also held several senior executive leadership positions in operations and corporate strategies for Thyssen Krupp and United Technologies.

During his time with Rolls-Royce, he was responsible for five manufacturing plants with over 1,500 employees.

The Distinguished Lecture Series started in 2010 by College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis.

For the Nov. 20 talk, those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP.