Most people see nothing but dirt, rocks and sagebrush in the desert. But Jim Haw saw the future. He and his son, Jim Haw, Jr., came to Northern Nevada from Las Vegas in 1978 knowing how quickly a city could grow. They believed Spanish Springs, the area north of Reno and Sparks, was where urban growth would naturally lead, and the Haws wanted to be part of it.
They bought 4,000 acres and taught themselves to build houses. In the process, they built a successful business. Today, Hawco Properties is still family owned and operated, and it is still thriving; 2004 was Hawco’s biggest year ever.
Hawco began as a residential builder. President Jesse Haw remembers his father and grandfather struggling through years of interest rates approaching 20 percent, "when you couldn’t give a house away." But as they’d predicted, Spanish Springs eventually took off, and pretty soon they couldn’t keep up with the housing demand. They decided they could get a lot more done if they left the homebuilding to someone else.
Currently, Hawco Properties is a developer of residential and commercial property, and is greatly responsible for today’s Spanish Springs. "We thought, if businesses came here, we’d sell more houses, and then they’d need more places to work. Then we asked, what else do we need here?" recalled Jesse Haw.
The answers came when they sat down with city planners and developed a Spanish Springs master plan. Parcels were allotted for several schools, parks, churches, shopping centers, streets and subdivisions. Hawco donated property to the city for four parks, Alice Taylor Elementary School, Shaw Middle School and Spanish Springs High School. They have also committed 10 acres for the YMCA, four acres for a local Truckee Meadows Community College campus, another 10 acres for a new elementary school, and 100 acres for the new Flood Control Program.
Currently Hawco’s primary focus is on the Spanish Springs Business Center (SSBC), a new 411-acre business park that is already half sold and will see an additional 800,000 square feet of office/industrial space going up this year. Leviton, a major manufacturer of electrical equipment, will occupy 400,000 square feet for its new plant. Also expected to take up residence at the SSBC are Hamilton Homes, Barker-Coleman, Edward Jones, Curves for Women, Silver State Liquor and several local businesses.
"The business park is key because it’s reversing the commute," said Haw. "A lot of people live here and drive to the other end of town for work. We need to put employment centers where people live. I think trying to create a more rounded community will benefit everyone."
Hawco is also developing a retail center at the intersection of Eagle Canyon and Pyramid Highway, which will contain restaurants, a grocery store, a bank and fast food. It will also have approximately 1,500 residential lots to sell in the next few years. And it will be working to develop more neighborhood commercial property.
Even with all this on its plate, Hawco Properties consists of only four employees. Along with Jesse Haw is brother Bill, a contractor charged with much of the necessary infrastructure work. Diane Banks, a cousin from Montana, handles all the accounting. Jim Haw, Sr., now almost 80 years old, still pops in every now and then to check up. All other work is contracted out.
Spanish Springs may still be considered a bit off the beaten path, but in the 25 years since the Haws came to town, it’s become an appealing community in which to live and work. And it’s going to stay that way, if Hawco Properties has anything to say about it.