Southern Nevada has always gone through boom-and-bust cycles, which is why LVGEA’s mission is to diversify the region’s economy to protect against the next economic downturn. But thanks to a few local leaders who had the foresight to invest in infrastructure improvements, the region has been able to continue record-setting growth despite some economic setbacks.
When we speak of infrastructure, we don’t just mean our roadways. It also means our water systems, public transportation, and commercial airports. Thanks to the investments made over the past decades, Nevada was ranked as having the country’s best infrastructure in the American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. While a #1 infrastructure ranking might not seem super sexy, it is 100% a selling point for businesses looking to relocate to Southern Nevada.
Take for example, the 53-mile Bruce Woodbury Beltway, which circles three-quarters of the Las Vegas valley. Clark County leaders had a vision of what Las Vegas could become and planned accordingly. Construction of the beltway was planned and paid for by the county, the first time a county had overseen the construction of an interstate highway with little to no state or federal funding. Now almost completely built out, the road’s existence has allowed the region to access thousands of acres of new land for commercial and industrial development, bringing billions of investment dollars to the region.
Additionally, the construction of the so-called ‘third straw’ into Lake Mead secured the region’s access to its primary water supply for years to come. As water levels continued to drop in the 2000s, the Southern Nevada Water Authority crafted a plan to build a tunnel under the lake and pipe water from the bottom, versus the pipe coming from above the surface. Completed in 2015, the new intake pipe, which is located 600 feet beneath the lake, took 3 years to build and at a controversial price tag of $817M. While expensive, the gamble paid off. Just weeks ago, the lake’s water level dipped below the SNWA’s second (surface) intake pipe. Without the ‘third straw’, the region would be under severe conservation measures that would almost surely hamper economic growth.
As Las Vegas continued to grow, so too did the Harry Reid International Airport, which is ranked as the 7th busiest airport in the nation by the FAA. Pre-pandemic, the airport served a record 51.5M passengers in 2019. Not only is the hospitality industry reliant on the airport to welcome additional visitors every year but having an international transportation hub allows businesses to better serve their clients and to recruit top talent. When the LVGEA Business Development teams talks to companies about why they want to locate to Southern Nevada, we regularly hear that the global reach of the airport helps them meet their business needs. Additionally, planning continues for the Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport, a second commercial airport in the Ivanpah Valley near the California border.
As you can see, infrastructure is what allows a community to become prosperous. Our region’s next infrastructure challenge is the need to create more development-ready industrial land. LVGEA and our municipal economic development partners get requests every day from companies looking to expand into Southern Nevada, but developable industrial land is becoming scarce. North Las Vegas is currently working to build infrastructure to the Apex Industrial Park in the northeast part of the valley, and plans are underway for an industrial park south of town in Sloan, with additional land available in the El Dorado valley. The only thing preventing companies from opening shop right now is a lack of infrastructure.
So, while ‘infrastructure’ might not be the most exciting topic to talk about, it is an essential piece of the puzzle that companies look at when they are deciding where to relocate. I think the region is at an exciting crossroads, as both community leaders and residents begin to recognize the importance of infrastructure investment.
Tina Quigley is President & CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance. Previously, she served as CEO of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, overseeing the region’s public transportation, road construction, and regional planning.