Lincoln County University of Nevada, Reno, Extension Educator Holly Gatzke gave her end-of-the-year report at the county commission meeting Dec. 17.

Gatzke said, in 2018, the extension office really focused on tourism and trying to discover what outdoor recreation is about and how to take advantage of it.

She stated that she collaborated with extension economists and some people in the business department at the University of Nevada, Reno, to do an assessment of mountain biking and outdoor recreations economic impact.

“The idea behind that, paid for by the city of Caliente, was to see what kind of impact we would get with the mountain biking tourism, and more importantly, how to capitalize on it. It is well known that even though mountain bikers or outdoor recreation visitors may come into an area, not all the local businesses try to capitalize on that. Then you don’t get the economic impact.”

She further explained that the report found, “If we were to capitalize on these visitors, compared to what has happened to other communities that we could match to Lincoln County, you could realize about $850,000 extra income if you had 10,000 mountain bikers come in a given year.”

Between 7,000-8,000 people are projected to visit the bike trails in Lincoln County within about a year and a half of their development by the International Mountain Biking Association. The project is currently in progress.

“The catch is,” she continued, “do we have the businesses to capitalize on that? The study that was done did analyze the data and determined it could provide $636,136 per year in income and about nine full-time jobs for current businesses. And a further $213,855 in income and three-full time jobs could be captured if missing business gaps are added from outside the Caliente area.”

Gatzke said interested business owners have had meetings in Caliente “and are very aware they need to refer businesses not only in the city, but also across the whole county. We’ve got to keep these visitors busy. County records show that 50,000 visitors do come to Lincoln County each year, but I don’t think we’re capitalizing on them as we could be.”

In reporting on other extension service programs, Gatzke said the farmer’s market is continuing. The community garden and local food coupons projects provided over $6,000 of local foods to residents.

The SNAP-Ed and Little Book and Little Cooks program is continuing in Pioche and Panaca to provide school-readiness skills and healthy eating education to three- to five-year-olds and their families.

The local food industry for Lincoln County, providing foods to vendors and restaurants in Las Vegas, dropped dramatically in 2018.

Gatzke reported, “Getting local foods into the distributors and businesses has become real tough. They are really more interested in buying from the big suppliers. Small farmers on average, nationwide, are not doing so well either.”

The County Extension Office Workforce Development program had 25 participants in 2018. Fourteen of those became employed, 11 completed occupational training, and four were provided with on-the-job training.

There were 33 youth involved in the program, and six achieved their high school diploma or equivalent. Nine were enrolled in occupational training, with 26 youth receiving work experience training. One person is attending a four-year college, one received work experience, and eight youths gained employment.

Gatzke reported Lincoln County had the highest number activity in Work Force training in Southern Nevada.

In the 4-H program in Lincoln County, Gatzke reported there were 26 clubs with 33 volunteers and 179 4-H members. That’s about 30 percent of the total youth population in the county, ages five to 17.

Cindy Higbee of Hiko has been hired as the new 4-H coordinator for the extension office.