Late last year, a huge chunk of land in Storey County was purchased in the same general region as the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC) by blockchain figures David and Jeffrey Berns. People have been speculating every since on what will happen to it.
While no exact figure has been given for the size of the land purchase, it is widely reported to be about 100 square miles. For comparison, Reno is 105.9 square miles.
One site, Trustnodes, reported, “The only named functioning subsidiary of Berns Inc. is EthNews, a media site focused on the ethereum ecosystem that seemingly came out of nowhere and appears to have corporate connections. Only 150 acres, out of the 64,000 bought, will be used to build a campus for the company. What the rest will be used for remains unclear.” The only information available on Berns’ plans for the land until last Sunday were on videos posted at www.blockchains.com, a non-textual site. Then, on Sunday, the New York Times reported on a tour of the land taken by reporter Nathaniel Popper, conducted by Jeffrey Berns.
“[Berns] imagines a sort of experimental community spread over about a hundred square miles, where houses, schools, commercial districts, and production studios will be built. The centerpiece of this giant project will be the blockchain, a new kind of database that was introduced by Bitcoin.” (A blockchain is a digital ledger used to record transactions that roll across computers, so that the record created cannot be changed or doctored without altering all the later blocks in the chain.)
That’s still not terribly definitive. A LinkedIn post reads, “Blockchains, LLC will be joining the likes of Tesla, Google, and Switch in calling the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the largest industrial park in the world, home. When completed, our corporate campus will consist of over 300,000 square feet and we expect to employ over 1,000 individuals by 2021.”
“But he is different from his crypto-brethren in one big way: He is spending his own money,” Popper wrote. “So far, he said, he has spent $300 million on the land, offices, planning, and a staff of 70 people.”
Last year, when Berns wrote an article, “Why I’m Fighting the IRS’s Bitcoin Privacy Invasion” for CoinDesk, it identified him only as “a bitcoin user, Coinbase customer and a managing partner at multi-specialty law firm Berns Weiss LLP.”
At the BernsWeiss site, Berns is described this way: “Over the course of his 25-year legal career, he has tenaciously fought for the rights of consumers, concentrating his practice on consumer lending and consumer fraud class actions. … Jeffrey is a co-founder of the firm’s virtual currency practice group. Additionally, he is the founder and President of Berns, Inc., a blockchain-focused start-up that operates a software development studio and a media division that focuses on the advancement and adoption of blockchain technology.”
As with Tesla and other firms, Nevada officials have rushed to meet Berns’ demands. The Storey County Commission has issued approval for a new town on the river, and Gov. Brian Sandoval has issued some kind of proclamation for Berns. The rapid pace of approval for an undefined project prompted Popper to include in his report the warning, “There is a fuzzy line between these utopian visions and get-rich-quick schemes. Several cryptocurrency projects have been shut down by regulators; apparent hucksters have been arrested; and a plan to transform Puerto Rico with cryptocurrencies has been criticized as nothing more than a bid to take advantage of the island’s status as a tax haven.”
TRIC has been the beneficiary of Sandoval’s permissive, laissez faire policies that featured, for Tesla, what is believed to be the largest corporate welfare package for a single corporation in human history.
The term “utopia” shows up in these arrangements frequently enough that it is useful to point out that near the Berns site in Churchill County in 1916, there was a utopian colony called Nevada City that was affiliated with southern California’s Llano del Rio colony. Nevada City lasted three years.