Born as a result of railroad construction, the City of Fernley was established in 1904 and later developed into an agricultural and ranching community. Today, its proximity to Reno has helped the city continue to flourish.
Much of the farmland in the Fernley area was developed as a result of the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902. The Newlands Irrigation Project established an irrigation system that delivers water to an area stretching from Derby Dam, along the Truckee River, to the Lahontan Reservoir near Fallon. Construction and expansion of the system took place from the initial inception through the 1960s.
In 1965, the Nevada Cement Company began operation in a new plant built on the north side of the city between Fernley and Wadsworth. This was the first significant non-agricultural or ranching business to come to Fernley, aside from the railroad. Primary employment in Fernley transitioned to an industrial and commuter base, and areas of agricultural and ranching lands evolved to housing subdivisions in order to support the growing population. Close proximity to Interstate 80 and abundant land for housing made Fernley an attractive alternative to the Reno-Sparks area.
Beginning near the established parts of the town, growth moved to the Fremont Street area in the mid to late 1970s, then migrated nearer to the farming areas in the 1980s, and has continued along Farm District Road. Numerous subdivisions now exist along Farm District Road including an 18-hole golf course and a new elementary school.
In 1999, Amazon.com opened a 750,000 square foot order fulfillment center in the industrial park located on the northeast side of the city. Since that time, more companies have opened facilities in the park including Trex Inc., Allied Signal, UPS Worldwide Logistics (Honeywell), ARE Campers, Johns Manville, and Sherwin Williams.
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