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November 29, 2014

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Valley’s three mayors on quest to revive economy, create jobs

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Leila Navidi

Workers lay the floor of the Development Services Center on the first floor during construction of the new North Las Vegas City Hall building Tuesday, February 8, 2011. The building is expected to be open to public by fall 2011.

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen is shown during a city council meeting in Henderson Tuesday, June 21, 2011.

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen is shown during a city council meeting in Henderson Tuesday, June 21, 2011.

North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck speaks Jan. 21, 2010, during the State of the City Address at Texas Station.

North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck speaks Jan. 21, 2010, during the State of the City Address at Texas Station.

Carolyn Goodman takes the seat as mayor for the first time during the Las Vegas City Council meeting Wednesday, July 6, 2011.

Carolyn Goodman takes the seat as mayor for the first time during the Las Vegas City Council meeting Wednesday, July 6, 2011.

Carolyn Goodman attended a recent gathering of U.S. mayors where solutions to the nation’s economic woes dominated the conversation. They pondered the underlying dynamics plaguing the employment picture, considered the challenges faced by big and small cities, and throughout the entire discussion the newly elected Las Vegas mayor focused on a simple mantra: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Yet, the newly negotiated debt-ceiling deal in Washington doesn’t reflect the sort of government spending plan that would not only save private- and public-sector jobs but generate new ones.

“We have to create jobs to get the economy moving again,” Goodman said of Clark County, where the June employment rate stood at 13.8 percent. “It has to be about jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Jobs came effortlessly for nearly two decades. The Southern Nevada population boom, kicked off by the 1989 construction of the Mirage and Excalibur, laid the foundation for an era of regional expansion never experienced in Nevada’s history. “We didn’t realize how good we had it. It was easy. We didn’t have to worry about where the next dime would come from,” Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said.

Now it is all about conserving dimes, nickels and pennies, with the valley’s three mayors overseeing cities that have cut public-sector workers and reduced hours and pay. Now they are working to land the next big employer, the fresh niche that could contribute to the long-awaited rebound.

In financially beleaguered North Las Vegas — which has the worst balance sheet of the valley’s three cities — Mayor Shari Buck speaks of the economic bonanza that might result from the Veterans Affairs hospital that is set to open within a year. The facility would specialize in treating those suffering from mental and emotional effects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Buck sees the potential for spinoffs: doctor’s offices, assisted-care living facilities and senior housing.

Additionally, an unidentified Asian manufacturer is showing interest in opening a plant in the United States and is using a go-between to reach out to North Las Vegas officials. They have checked on the cost of land, housing and utilities, the availability of water, public safety and the education levels of the workforce, Buck said.

Why the interest in North Las Vegas? Because the city is attractive for the same reason it’s not: The collapse of housing prices and double-digit vacancy rates for commercial and industrial space have left some neighborhoods blighted, but have also lowered the cost of entry for businesses.

“There’s a lot of interest in our city, which gives me great hope,” Buck said. “On the one hand you have the economic downturn. On the other you have the solution.”

In Henderson, all eyes are on the $1.5 billion Union Village that would link senior health care, housing and retail, potentially creating 17,000 direct and indirect construction jobs at U.S. 95 and Galleria Drive.

Skeptics may wonder why the region’s depressed residential housing market would need thousands of new units or whether money can be raised to finance the project.

Hafen, a first-term mayor and longtime City Council member, thinks the proposal could be a key component of an economic revival for his city, with renewed growth generating revenue needed to enhance such municipal services as police and fire protection as well as parks and recreation. “I would just like to see us stop going backward with our sales tax and property tax” revenue, he said.

Within its city limits, Las Vegas lacks the rich inventory of undeveloped land held by Henderson and North Las Vegas. So talk of the consolidation of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, which would help the smaller city save money, pleases Goodman, a freshman mayor who continues her husband’s push to expand the city’s commercial base so that jobs can follow. North Las Vegas, on the other hand, has land stretching north along Interstate 15 to Apex that could accommodate commercial and industrial expansion.

Goodman won’t say whether she hopes Las Vegas will someday control that land through consolidation with North Las Vegas. Rather, she returns to her jobs-jobs-jobs quest, and once again says the nation’s political leaders had better consider adopting job-creating spending plans. Otherwise, she worries that the regional and national economies will stagnate, further stifling the consumer-dependent economy of the Strip, prolonging the back end of this region’s boom and bust cycle.

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  1. Sounds like they got tired of waiting for Joe Heck and Dean Heller to come up with ideas...not surprising.

  2. Andy Hafen is doing a great job, Buck is selling apples to avert the NLV legislative take over and Bubbe Goodman is handing out palliative blintzes. Well, one out of three ain't bad, I guess.

  3. Tough times - hard to get consistent approaches with the political turmoil and especially with the many broadsides from the American taliban (aka the Tea Party)with their fallacies - e.g., taking money from the rich means they won't hire - hmmm - they continue to send their money offshore and engage in greed, greed, greed. Hope and pray the world gets better!

  4. Hi Jon,
    To be fair both Joe and Dean have ideas...it's just that they are all wrong and stupid ideas.

  5. Listen, it is well documented that Bill Clinton published out of this country for money purposes. Why don't we tax those celebs that live in the mansions in Europe. You honestly think their money is in this country? Why not Tax them for every movie or TV production that goes to Canada? Why not propose laws that if you don't keep your campaign promises, you stand trial?

    Lay off all departments in all three cities and keep only the dept. head. Stop all the business license fees, parking fees, catering and bar fees, and clean up the systems. Each of you fire your police and fire departments, top to bottom. Open an Employment Center and rehire, new agreements, non-union. Guess what, this would make you all solvent, and putting money in that bank account called a savings account.

  6. Las Vegas should donate one of the three ferris wheels it plans to build to North Las Vegas and one to Henderson. Problem solved.

  7. I am so sick and tired of political and corporate pet projects. These little things only hold over for a few days while people talk about them. We need real across the board change. We need huge sweeping catalysts to help pump up the energy here in Nevada. Ferris Wheels, Mob museums and more shopping centers are really only short term and a gamble at best. How many shopping centers are already empty? Fix up what we have. Fill the homes with people and existing empty buildings. Make what we have work first. When people are hurting for money and work you don't build shopping centers for more people to spend their money, you create a new infrastructure that works and doesn't only favor the business owners. How does more shopping help us? How does revenue from a mob museum really help us? We need big industrial change. We need big forward thinkers not the ex-mayors wife carrying on his losing direction. But the reps are happy with the status quo and saying things like more money for the rich and less help for the poor! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  8. I personally enjoyed the article and glad that there is movement in coorperative communication. Interesting is the fact that fundamental geographic issues are beginning to be addressed. Though it is just a video game, I often wonder if any community leaders have ever thought about looking at SIMCITY games? Yes, it sounds funny talking about a video game, but the simulation involved highlights many of the basic issues of community.

    The valley is laid out like so many cities, with most of the residential geographically separated from the industry. Whether that industry be the hotels and tourism base, or the manufacturing segment. We have laid out our society where transportation (the ease and cost) is extremely influencial.

    Households must have money to spend to increase economic growth. With the reduction of jobs/wage, and the increase in living costs something has to give. We are saping the very heart of our economy...the consumers. Yes, the cost of purchasing a house has gone down, but it is mainly from foreclosure, so credit for many of those Americans is damaged. They are not the ones buying the cheaper property and yet they want to live here, so they rent.

    Our city is highly dependent on transportation cost and guess what? The gas and oil don't come from here, it is shipped in. Increase the ease of economical and fast transportation without dependence on gas stations. It will assist in moving the labor to the jobs (it will also create jobs). Also, just imagine another increase in gas prices? It will ripple just like it has and did before. It will continue to take the little bit of discretionary income that is left away.

    With opinion, I would argue this is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. Highways are nice, but not if people cannot get fuel or more importantly, pay for it. If you want to really create jobs, as a first step, look at how to get people to them. The older ways of thinking have not worked, it is time to think with vision for the future of the many in mind...not just the few.

  9. I agree on the comment, "tired of waiting for Joe Heck or Dean Heller" to come up with some creative ideas as to jobs in our area. Matter of fact I contacted Joe Heck, (he did not respond), on a job loss situation here in Henderson by a Internet firm who gave all there work to overseas countries vs keeping work here in the USA. This amounted to anywhere from 300 to 500 jobs lost by people with a good amount from here.
    All I can say, thanks for nothing Joe Heck. At least he could of replied or looked into what I was telling him.
    That's okay, come election time, it will be, "none of the above"