Geno Martini, mayor of Sparks, is no stranger to politics, or the city of Sparks. The mayor was born and raised in Sparks on a ranch that is now covered with warehouse and industrial buildings. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a 30-year career in banking. Martini began his political career in 1999, when he was appointed to the Sparks City Council to complete an unexpired term. He was elected as mayor pro tem in 2003, and served until 2005 when he was sworn in as mayor. Mayor Martini discussed the changing scene in Sparks with Nevada Business Journal.
How is the city trying to differentiate itself from Reno?
Our population is 88,000. Sparks has been growing at 4 percent each year for the past five years. We have always been known as the bedroom community of Reno because we didn’t have our own retail centers. In 2000, we actively changed gears, realizing that we needed to keep our tax base strong. To do that, we need to develop some mixed-use developments. So, we went to the developers and told them we need retail and commercial developments in Sparks.
How are you recruiting businesses?
We work with the developers to recruit businesses. The developers recruit retail and commercial developers, and we [city council and myself] talk to the potential recruits to see if Sparks is a good fit for their business.
What new developments are currently underway in Sparks?
We are very excited about two master-planned communities currently under construction. Copper Canyon is 13 million square feet of professional office space. Kiley Ranch is a smart growth, master-planned community that will be self-contained with a town center and business park. The 808-acre master-planned community will have 4,000 residential units and 100 acres of retail.
The Legends at Sparks Marina is an awesome project that will put Sparks on the map when completed. It’s a true destination resort – 1,000-room hotel, restaurants and shops. It is very pedestrian-oriented and will be a town center of its own. It will house Schiels All Sports Sporting Goods Store – a 240,000-square-foot two-story building. When completed, it will be the largest sporting goods store in the world – right here in Sparks. Legends will have a dinosaur-themed restaurant called T-Rex, and Sparks is one of nine locations in the U.S. where T-Rex will be established. The project has a three- to four-year build-out and will create an environment where people can eat, shop and play.
Are there any plans to build a college in Sparks?
Yes, Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) has been looking in the Spanish Springs Valley to build a satellite campus. They are looking for land which is so expensive out there and tough to get. But, once they decide the exact location, it will be exciting to have the satellite campus here.