Friday, January 2, 2009

Nevada town thrives in spite of (and because of) the global economic slump

Read Steve Friess's New York Times story about Battle Mountain, Nevada, population 2,871, here. Gold is the reason Battle Mountain, the unincorporated community that is the county seat of Lander County (population 5,794), is thriving these days. Nevada is the fourth largest producer of gold in the world, and much of it comes from Lander County, about 200 miles east of Reno, 50 miles east of Winnemucca. Called the "armpit of America" by a Washington Post Magazine writer in 2001, Battle Mountain is looking pretty good right now.

Here's a short excerpt from Friess's story:

And when the broader economy declines and the value of the dollar fluctuates, people buy gold. At current prices — gold hit $892 an ounce on Monday, its highest price in three months and not that far off its record high of more than $1,000 an ounce in March — places like Battle Mountain hum with good-paying jobs and rising home values, making the financial woes of the rest of the country a distant concern.

“I don’t know of anybody who is getting foreclosed on; it’s just not something that’s an issue out here,” Charlotte Thompson, 56, said, shrugging as she seated diners on a frigid, wind-swept evening at the Owl Club Casino and Restaurant, the main attraction of Battle Mountain’s four-block main thoroughfare, Front Street.
As Friess explains, Battle Mountain's boom is highly localized. Neighboring counties without goldmines have unemployment rates about twice as high as Lander County's, and the state of Nevada still leads the nation in home foreclosures.

Friess's story is worth a read in its entirety for its colorful descriptions of the joys and challenges of rural living. Don't miss the multi-media feature here.

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