By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Next year, Jeffrey Berns, CEO of Nevada-based Blockchains LLC, hopes to break ground on his proposed “smart city” in Storey County, which eventually would include 15,000 homes, 33 million square feet of commercial/industrial space and use an economy based on blockchain cryptocurrency.
His utopian idea has already drawn vocal opposition because Berns proposes to govern the new city with its own government. Conservationists, too, are opposed, because Berns’ purchased water-rights are 100-miles away and would need a pipeline across vast stretches of Northern Nevada to reach his city.
Yet state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, says he likes “big ideas” on Nevada Newsmakers and is taking a more tempered approach.
“It’s a big idea, right?” Kieckhefer told host Sam Shad. “And I like big ideas and the idea that we create a sandbox for the relationships between people and their government, from businesses to their clients or business to business, or businesses to government. There’s something there that is interesting, right? And if we can find a way to make it work, then I would be interested in it.”
Berns’ proposal must first get approval from the Legislature to get the process moving and Kieckheer pointed to another “big idea” from the recent past that lawmakers approved.
“Look, I was standing there when Elon Musk stood on the steps of the state capitol and said Nevada is a state where you can get things done and that is absolutely the case,” Kieckhefer said about the 2014 day when Musk announced he’d build his $5 billion Tesla gigafactory in Storey County. “So we need to figure out what exactly the goal is and what the proposals are that are running into some problems and we can find a way to fix it.”
Kieckhefer, however, acknowledged the angst of the Storey County officials. The three-member Storey County Commission voted last month to “oppose separatist governing control” and the carving up of the county, according to The Associated Press.
“It is a significant chunk of their county, right? It is not a small piece,” Kieckhefer said.
Lawmakers, so far, have only seen a draft of Berns’ plan. The final bill for the “smart city” idea has yet to be presented at the 2021 Legislature. That final bill may differ from the draft, Kieckhefer said.
“We’re about halfway through (the legislative session) and we haven’t seen a bill yet …things tend to change a lot when you get into legislative drafting,” he said.
“I think there are a lot of details that still need to be heard and vetted and I think the legislative process is good at pulling some of things things out and getting to understand what is being discussed and what is being proposed,” he said.
Kieckhefer, however, has reservations about possible taxes levied on the blockchains technology that would run the new city.
“I have significant reservations about applying a new tax on this technology, which is one of the key proponents in this,” he said. “I think when you tax something, you get less of it and we should be encouraging innovations and more new technologies to come into our state.”