Column originally appeared in the July 24 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
We are not defined by our challenges; we are defined by our ability to overcome them. Last month, the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA) hosted its 42nd annual Las Vegas Perspective event, and more than 700 business and community leaders heard about an impending recession, a drying climate depleting our water resources, and the need to buildout a business ecosystem that not only educates a quality workforce but also provides the quality of life and integrated networks needed to retain critical workers.
None of these challenges should seem unfamiliar. We have weathered fourteen recessions since the Great Depression, the most recent sourced to a 100-year pandemic that shut down our economy and pressed unemployment to unprecedented levels. According to National Geographic, the western United States is in the worst drought in over 1,200 years, and the population served by the Colorado River has grown to 40 million people. And today, there are 11.3 million job openings and about 6.0 million active job seekers. If we fail to develop a community that meets the needs of workers, they will simply find one that does.
For the record, we have also survived floods and fires, wars, organized crime and terrorist attacks.
Challenges notwithstanding, the Las Vegas metropolitan area was recently ranked among the areas with the largest year-over-year employment increases (+9.0 percent) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and last month the United States Census Bureau reported that Clark County’s new business applications were up 30 percent in 2021 and ended the year at the highest level ever reported. For our part, it was also a record year at the LVGEA. We assisted 39 companies that created over 6,200 jobs in key sectors like advanced manufacturing, clean technology, and logistics.
Our challenges provide us the opportunity to improve and to lead — water is an excellent example. Southern Nevada Water Authority conservation measures are among the most aggressive and innovative in the nation. Over the past two decades, they have helped reduce consumptive water use per capita by nearly 50 percent while the region’s population increased by approximately 800,000 people. WaterStart, an economic development initiative originally funded through Nevada’s Knowledge Fund, is also accelerating the adoption of innovative water technologies. To date, the organization has evaluated 400 technologies and funded 42 pilot programs each with the potential to provide real-world, water-saving applications that will not only help communities in Nevada but also those around the world.
To address our immediate water challenges, we are going to need to be a global leader in conservation and innovation. That is exactly what we are striving to be.
It is this type of thinking that has made southern Nevada a beacon for businesses and for workers. Respecting our endless list of existential threats, businesses continue to thrive and opportunities for our diverse workforce abound. And why will this continue? Because we are creating new pathways for entrepreneurs, because we are creating new opportunities for the 58,000 employer businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy, and because we are constantly looking for expanding and relocating companies that want to be here because of what they can offer us as much as what we can offer them.
Economic development is a competitive enterprise. Success is going to require thoughtful community investment and an ability and willingness to seize opportunities when they present themselves. It is going to require sacrifice, compromise and tradeoffs that ensure our long-term sustainability is never put at risk. And, it is going to take some faith that – together – we can overcome whatever challenges might come our way to ensure that this community remains a remarkable place to work and to live for decades to come.