Benjamin & Melarkey: GOP, Dems agree in Yerington
Written by Mike Melarkey and Mike Benjamin/9/10/13
On Aug. 19, the RGJ ran an AP story titled, “Nevada and New Jersey top states that lost the most jobs in July.” With all the positive stories on economic development in the past few months, this is an unwelcome reminder that the Nevada economy is not out of the woods.
We are small businessmen and owners of the Pioneer Crossing Casinos. We have small properties that cater to local customers and offer a safe, clean environment with great food for a fair price. In our two properties in Dayton and Fernley, we employ 128 Nevadans and are proud of the work they do. We recently expanded to Yerington, where we invested in the old Casino West.
In recent reports, Lyon County leads all of Nevada in its unemployment rate, and as we are painfully aware, Nevada has led the nation in its statewide unemployment rate.
So why would we invest in Yerington, in the heart of Lyon County?
Simply put, because we see tremendous growth opportunities for our business and a recovery that may help lead the state out of the economic doldrums — if Congress can just do its job.
For years now, Nevada Copper Corp. has been pushing Congress to authorize the use of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land to expand its mining operations in Yerington. Conservatively put, this expansion would bring about 800 high-paying new jobs to Lyon County (and to Nevada). These employees will need to buy homes, cars, clothes washers and frequent restaurants, hair salons, retail stores and even casinos. Every vendor and supplier of the mine will have to grow to accommodate this increased activity and expand its employee base. These are good things.
Last Congress, Rep. Mark Amodei (a freshman and Republican) moved a bill that would allow this expansion all the way through the U.S. House of Representatives, only to see it die in the U.S. Senate. When congressional district lines changed, Rep. Steven Horsford (a freshman and Democrat) re-introduced the bill with a conservation piece (Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act) and has worked hand-in-hand with Amodei. Both Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller introduced the same bill in the Senate and have it ready to go to the Senate floor for passage. Gov. Sandoval fully supports the bill becoming law.
What’s more, they have the support of locally elected officials and stakeholders, from environmental to land-use groups. Across the political spectrum, we Nevadans agree that this needs to happen.
Some national political forces believe they know better than Nevada how best to dispose of our government land or protect sensitive wilderness areas.
As a small state, we may be used to being outnumbered, but we are not used to being outgunned. Any further delay in this measure passing Congress threatens the huge opportunity we have to get back on our economic growth track.
We should vocally urge our congressional delegation to intensify the fight and those who have other agendas to respectfully get out of the way.
Mike Melarkey and Mike Benjamin own Pioneer Crossing Casinos and live in Reno.