After five years of jumping through the bureaucratic hoops the Long Canyon mine is finally ready to begin construction.
On January 9th the Long Canyon Mine project made is long awaited appearance in the Federal Register (republished on page 3). Its appearance is the last step between the permitting phase and the construction phase of the mine.
Expected to take two years to build the initial project mine construction is expected to employ between 300 and 500 workers. According to Mary Korpi, Newmont’s Director of External Relations by March the project should be in full swing.
Already the mine’s impact has been felt albeit slightly in both Wendover and Wells.
“We have seen some impact already,” said Wells Mayor Layla Walz. “Most of the vacant real estate has been bought. And there has been a noticeable increase of interest by businesses in locating to Wells.”
Walz’ observations were echoed by Wells City manager Jolene Supp, West Wendover City Clerk Anna Bartlome and Wendover,Utah Mayor Mike Crawford. All stated that their respective towns had seen an economic bump in the last six to nine months.
Everyone but Crawford attributed the upswing to the new mine.
“Right now we are seeing the impact of the smaller mining projects to the south,” Crawford said Wednesday. “We will probably see much more of an impact later on when the construction starts. But I believe Wells could benefit first then Wendover.”
If Crawford’s prediction is right Wells would be grateful.
With less than a 1,000 population Wells was hard hit not only economically but also suffered biblical disasters like the earth quaked of 2008 and the range wild fires of 2006. Most of its historic down town was destroyed and even the two local brothel hit hard times.
“It is good to be able to welcome the good times especially after all we have been through,” Walz said.
While not suffering anywhere near Wells, Wendover, Utah and West Wendover Nevada could also use some large scale economic good news too.
West Wendover, Nevada has seen a general decline in the number of small businesses from a high of around 300 in 2003 to about half that a decade later.
From 190 business licenses recorded in 2012 there were 172 at the start of the last fiscal year. Most of the then decline came from ‘non-local’ businesses which do not have a physical presence in the city. According to Bartlome there were 80 such companies at the start of the last fiscal year. As of July 30th 2013 there were just 67.
The number of local businesses also fell albeit not as steeply. From the 110 reported last year there are now 105.
In 2011 there were total of 171 businesses in West Wendover, 100 of which were local and 71 non-local.
In July 2010 there were 93 local business and 87 non-local.
Local businesses are defined by companies that have a physical presence in West Wendover and include everything from home based businesses run part time to apartment complexes and casinos.
With a population less than half of West Wendover, Wendover, Utah boasts about 180 business including 110 locally owned or operated said City Clerk Mariah Murphy.
120 miles to the south the city of Ely has about 300 businesses with a population about two thirds of West Wendover.
The dearth of private enterprise is most acute in the retail industry which apart from Smith’s Food Store is virtually nonexistent in West Wendover.
click link for federal register citation; 2015-00067
Purchases as simple as a computer printer ink, a telephone or even a coffee maker available literally in a half a dozen locations in communities of similar or even smaller sizes as Wendover, often necessitate a 240 mile round trip to Salt Lake City to the east or Elko to the west.
In the past five years West Wendover has seen a number of relatively large retailers also leave town such as Park Furniture, Bargain Barn Serendipity and Blanchard’s Furniture. Two years ago it saw the closure of one of its two full service banks, Nevada Bank and Trust.
While generally depressing there are some signs of green shoots. A clothing store and a discount general goods store open where the video store once operated.
A dozen years ago that West Wendover earned the title of Nevada’s fastest growing city by more than doubling its population from over 2,000 when the city incorporated in 1991 to well over 4,000 in 2001.
In addition to an almost exponential increase in single family homes West Wendover saw three new apartment complexes and three new mobile homes parks built in less than ten years.
Small retailers also flourished.
But at its peak in 2001 the boom began to bust. Facing financial disaster the StateLine Casino Corporation began to pare down its work force and unknown to many of its employees began to cut payments to the company’s health insurer.
The crisis reach its peak in 2002 when the company declared bankruptcy and was later sold at auction. Hundreds of jobs were lost and even workers who retained employment found their life savings wiped out by medical bills they thought they were insured for but were not.
But while the StateLine bankruptcy can explain the beginning of the bust the stagnation that followed cannot be put on the shoulders of a company that has not existed for ten years.
Instead Wendover’s economic stagnation is probably due to a combination of factors some within and some outside of the city’s control.
Small retailers and home based business owners have frequently complained about West Wendover’s over regulation of private enterprise that borders to the point of harassment.
The new mine will not only create jobs but could also swell the population far beyond the current numbers.
And while rapid growth brings its own set of challenges most communities would rather deal with prosperity than stagnation,