The Lincoln County Regional Development Authority (LCRDA) held a teleconference-only meeting on July 6.
After taking care of administrative tasks, the board discussed possible action regarding Lincoln County’s approval to submit an application to Grants.Gov for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Nevada Forests and Woodlands Resources Management funding and to Designate LCRDA as a subrecipient and lead agency.
Executive Director for LCRDA Jeff Fontaine provided a background on efforts to utilize biomass to develop businesses and create jobs and noted the inability to secure a long-term agreement with the BLM as an obstacle to attracting investors. He also acknowledged LCRDA’s partnership with Dr. Stephen Clarke, CEO of QuanVerge, Inc., for the past 18 months and said that he and Clarke have been meeting with the BLM to try and get a 20-year agreement to harvest and manage pinyon juniper in Lincoln County for biofuels and biochemicals.
Fontaine said that the BLM issued a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for Nevada Forests and Woodlands Resources Management and that applications were due June 13. Fontaine said that LCRDA is not registered in the Grants.gov system and that the Board of Lincoln County Commissioners agreed to allow him to submit the application on behalf of Lincoln County and designate LCRDA as the subrecipient and lead agency. He said he could not verify the maximum length of the agreement in the NOFO but will ask for a 20-year agreement. Fontaine said that the biofuels industry has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the application includes harvesting pinyon and juniper for firewood while continuing to work with QuanVerge on developing industrial uses of biomass for the generation of renewable energy and production of advanced transportation fuels, polymers and other biomass-based products.
Clarke provided additional information regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on the biofuels industry and said that because of those impacts he is now focused on developing cost-efficient mechanical methods for harvesting pinyon and juniper. Board member Jay Schofield offered to assist Clarke with developing equipment to harvest pinyon and juniper and Chairman David Hurd said that he also has experience with heavy equipment and would be willing to assist Clarke.
Fontaine said that he is including a substantial amount of his time to manage the project as in-kind match for the agreement and suggested that LCRDA also provide $5,000 in match for marketing and other items related to the project.
Schofield moved, and Councilman Tommy Rowe seconded a motion to approve moving forward with the application including $5,000 in match. The motion was approved unanimously.
The board also discussed how LCRDA could leverage the rise in remote work. Hurd noted that in the board packet there was a link to an article in MainStreet Magazine about remote workers. Fontaine said that he has been hearing about the increase in remote work during his teleconferences with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and other regional development authorities in the state and that Lincoln County is great place for people who are interested in remote working from a smaller rural community with lots of outdoor recreational opportunities. He asked the board to let him know if they have any ideas on how to promote Lincoln County. There was discussion regarding broadband and Schofield noted an improvement in his internet service with the installation of small dishes near his home by Lincoln County Telephone System.
Fontaine said that high speed internet is vital to attracting remote workers and that he would follow up with the telephone company.
An update from the Lincoln County Authority of Tourism (LCAT) was given by LCAT President Marcia Hurd. She said that the Destination Development program would be holding a July 9 workshop to build the program and that LCAT would be participating along with the Nevada Department of Tourism, TravelNevada, USDA, GOED, and the Coraggio Group. She also said that LCAT has been working with Eric Holt, Lincoln County Emergency Management, as part of their future event planning and that they are working on a modified/updated visitors guide and discussing the potential of buying additional copies for resale to hotels, restaurants, real estate agents, etc. She said that LCAT’s role in assisting in the building of a “Relocation Guide” would be to provide a Lincoln County Visitors Guide (tourism and location information) and a Resource Directory developed by the Lincoln County Coalition with list of all services available. She said that LCAT is drafting an idea for a P-Man (primitive man) statue /stand-up contest to place the statues around Lincoln County for people to find and have their pictures taken, etc. and that LCAT attended the introduction of a new restaurant in Pioche: Gunslingers and shared an information/welcome packet.
Commissioner Varlin Higbee said that the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners set aside $250,000 in CARES Act funding to help businesses in Lincoln County.
Fontaine noted that Nevada Central Media received a Layoff Aversion grant from Southern Nevada Workforce Connections. In response to a question from Chairman Hurd,
Dr. Don Deever of the University of Nevada Extension said that he has been working with the owners of Two Pigs Custom Meats in Alamo on their proposed expansion and said that he is looking for grants to help them.
Fontaine reported on his teleconference with Rural Desert Southwest Brownfields Coalition and said that he and County Planning Director Cory Lytle were trying to identify projects to submit for funding but that there was only funding for a few projects for all the counties in the Coalition this cycle.
It was decided that the timing of the next meeting would be based on BLM’s action on the stewardship agreement application but would be held on either September 8 or September 21.