“I think that we are going to see a change, a change for the better not only here in Sparks but all over,” said Len Stevens, executive director of the Sparks Chamber of Commerce. “You can see the preparation right now and it is for growth. We see more venues coming to the city in terms of events and programs. This preparedness is taking place and we know there will be an upswing as there was a down swing.”
According to city economic data, about 22 percent of residents are between 18 and 34 years old and 63 percent of residents earn more than $50,000 per year. In Sparks, more than 27 percent of the available workforce holds higher education degrees.
According to a 2009 Business Week article, Sparks was named one of the best small cities for a start-up business. The distinction was made because Sparks had 3.18 start-ups per 1,000 people with half of the city’s population in the of working age (18 to 65).
“It’s still because we are family friendly and business friendly,” Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said of the city at the time of the award. “We try to make it as easy as we can when businesses come through here.”
The family-oriented culture makes Sparks a haven for small businesses.
“For me, the culture is that it still has a small town feel where you can talk to the people you need to talk to,” Stevens said. “It is not too large that you can’t get to the people you need to get to as a business.”
According to statistics from the city of Sparks, the city has about 35 small businesses for every 1,000 people.
“There is a lot of opportunity right now,” Stevens added.
Much of the city’s business in the downtown core sees a seasonal boom every summer. Sparks is known for its special events that pack more than 1 million people into the Victorian Square corridor between July and September.
Special events such as Hot August Nights, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off and the Sparks Farmers Market turn Victorian Square from a quiet street into a booming business center.
City of Sparks officials are just starting the process of exploring a contract with the University of Nevada, Reno to do a study on summer events’ total economic impact. Currently, each event monitors its own economic impact, either through an official study or by just eyeball estimating attendance on the street. Hot August Nights executive director Bruce Walter claims that his event brings about 800,000 visitors to the Truckee Meadows area and leaves a $350 million economic impact. Rib Cook-Off producer, John Ascuaga’s Nugget, claims that people coming from out of state spend more than $17 million on non-gaming expenses while staying in Sparks for the event. The Sparks Farmers Market, the largest summer farmers markets in the Reno/Sparks area, boasts a 15,000 attendance over 11 weeks, attracting more than 100 vendors from across the West Coast.
Oddie Boulevard Corridor
On the western edge of Sparks, the Oddie Boulevard corridor is in a city redevelopment area and can offer commercial real estate options at pleasant prices.
One of the area’s oldest shopping centers recently got its own renovation, sprucing up commercial offerings in one of the older sections of Sparks.
Located near Oddie Boulevard and El Rancho Drive, Paradise Plaza was originally built in 1968. The renovation was the largest in the redevelopment area to occur since the 1970s. The work was done by Primestor, a California developer.
While redevelopment funds are available to companies that want to do large projects in the area, the Paradise Plaza renovation was not done with any of those funds.
“They could have asked but they didn’t,” Sparks Councilwoman Julia Ratti said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in November 2009. “In this economy we can see there is still the opportunity to improve properties in the urban core where we need it the most. We’re really excited about it.”
Tenants at the 189,000-square-foot Paradise Plaza, located on the southwest corner of Oddie Boulevard and Sullivan Lane, include Kmart, Walgreen’s, H&R Block, Dollar Tree, Payless ShoeSource, Rent-A-Center, Jelly Donuts, Paradise Laundry, America’s Beauty and Pizza Plus.
“The city of Sparks has been a terrific partner in redeveloping this project to become a real core for the community,” said Arturo Sneider, a partner of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Primestor. “We look forward to celebrating together at many events to come.”
The Sparks Marina has grown from a gravel pit in the late 1990s to a booming retail and recreation center for Sparks. The marina itself attracts walkers, runners, swimmers, divers and paddle boarding enthusiasts to its shores. Converted from the Helms Pit into a recreation center, the Sparks Marina has become a center for many of Sparks’ annual special events.
In 2007, the Legends at Sparks Marina opened bringing about 100 new businesses, 10,000 new jobs and a $415 million per year impact to the local economy.
Eventually, the Legends project will expand to include an IMAX theater and additional retail.
Anchor stores include Scheels All Sports.
Spanish Springs, a suburb north of Sparks, is widely considered to be the area that has seen the most growth in recent years. Residences have sprung up all over the mostly rural area, meaning an open opportunity for commercial business.
U.S. Census figures from 2000 placed Spanish Spring’s population at just more than 9,000 people with a median age of 34. More recent 2009 figures from local real estate brokers place the existing homes at 14,265 and the total approved, but not necessarily built homes, at 28,171. Based on these numbers, the total current population was estimated at about 35,640.
In the 2000 census, 3,014 households were counted out of which 47.4 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them and 75.2 percent were married couples living together. The average household size was 2.99 and the average family size was 3.20.
The median income for a household in Spanish Springs was $69,451 and the median income for a family was $72,026. The per capita income for the area was $26,908.
The area has seen commercial growth come right along with the residential growth. The Spanish Springs Galleria, the largest shopping center in the area, was built in 2005 and is 133 acres with 70.39 of those acres being commercially developed. The center currently has about a 20 percent vacancy rate.
Spanish Springs is continuing its growth northward, with additional commercial construction currently underway at the intersection of Pyramid Highway and La Posada-Eagle Canyon Drive.