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October 23, 2014

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LOOKING AHEAD:

2013: Las Vegans offer their forecasts on the new year

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A year ago, many experts forecast that the recession would loosen its grip on Las Vegas and Nevada in 2012. Looking back, it seems it did a bit, but the year left us mostly disappointed.

Housing values began inching up, yet the foreclosure rate remained among the steepest of any state in the U.S.

Gaming revenues were up slightly and the tourist count was nearing a record level, yet the unemployment rate remained in double digits.

Clearly, Las Vegas and the state did not come roaring back with the vigor many had hoped.

So what to make of 2013? Will this be the year the recovery begins in earnest?

What will be the biggest challenges for Las Vegas and Nevada? What are the greatest fears? What are the brightest prospects?

We like to ask these questions at the end of the year. A year ago, we mostly asked community leaders and prominent business people. This year, we threw our net out to get more thoughts from people of various walks of life and perspectives.

This year's participants range from corporate CEOs and top state and federal elected leaders to a butcher and a baker — alas, no candlestick maker.

It's a diverse group, with equally wide-ranging views. We began presenting them Monday, and now we offer the last installment of our two-part Look Ahead to 2013.

    • Brian Sandoval, Nevada governor



      More people back to work: I think that’s my No. 1 priority in economic development. We will continue to be a business-friendly state that allows businesses here to grow as well as attracts new ones. We’ve been, I think, successful at that.

      Improving the delivery of education also is important. It bothers me just as much as anybody else with regard to our graduation rates. I’ve met with (Washoe County Superintendent) Pedro Martinez and had an opportunity to chat with (Clark County) Superintendent Dwight Jones. We’re able to identify exactly the students who need the most help, and we’re hoping to improve their situation.

      So the economy and education are going to be my main focuses. And, obviously, the provision of medical services and taking care of the vulnerable would be one as well.

      I don’t think businesses are hesitant to come here. I’ve talked to 40-plus new businesses, and they are absolutely ecstatic about their decision to come to Nevada. If you look at the amount of prospect we have of businesses that want to come to Nevada, they’ve doubled or tripled.

      — Anjeanette Damon

    • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks with reporters following a Democratic strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012.

      Harry Reid, Nevada’s senior U.S. senator and the majority leader of the Senate



      There is a lot to look forward to in 2013, and I am confident next year will be a good one for Nevadans. Our state’s economy has been improving, although not as quickly as I would like. Nevadans will continue to see the benefits of the Affordable Care Act take hold, and in particular seniors will save more on prescription medication, women will benefit from free preventive health care services, and young people will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Clean energy also will bring new industries and jobs to Nevada as we continue to take advantage of our abundant solar, geothermal and wind resources.

      We must continue our work to create an economy that is built to last for Nevada and for the United States. We have made progress, but we cannot afford to relent. I also believe we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. Our immigration system is broken, and fixing it is high on my list of priorities.

      The only thing we need to get immigration reform done is a few Republican votes, and I am hopeful they will join us in this effort.

      Nevada’s beauty lies in the diversity of its people and its communities. From the north to south, the needs of Nevadans differ, and the state’s congressional delegation must work together to make sure all Nevadans are heard in Washington. I hope to work with Nevada’s delegates in the House and Senate to significantly improve the quality of life for all of our constituents.

      — Karoun Demirjian

    • P Moss, owner of the Double Down Saloon and Frankie’s Tiki Room



      I think (business) pretty much stabilized in 2012, and many things are going in the right direction. Housing hasn’t, exactly, but I think it will in 2013.

      It starts in Las Vegas with tourism, meaning people will have more money to spend, and the trickle-down helps all workers.

      My businesses cater to tourists and locals. But you want to start with a solid base of locals. If you don’t have that, you can try other things and it’s just not going to work that well.

      I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing and make what I’m doing stronger. I think it’s going to get better from a business standpoint and a livelihood standpoint for everyone.

      — Joe Schoenmann

    • Jim Murren, CEO, MGM Resorts International



      I think Las Vegas, as a community, will be better in 2013. The improvement will be discernible.

      People are moving here from California and other high-tax states. We're seeing some job growth and better traffic at our local properties. We're also doing much better at our Strip properties.

      Our goal should be to continue to drive international business here. The new Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport is one of our great investments, and it continues to bring in more international flights. We need to take advantage of that.

      We can work with the State Department to make it easier to get visas, so people can come here. Foreign visitors want to come here. They want to stay longer. We enjoy having them. The challenge is working through the logistics.

      The next year also relies on forces we can't control. We have a federal government that is paralyzed at this moment, and its decisions will affect the future of the economy. Personally, I feel we're going to see a lot accomplished in Washington. This is the first time I've felt this way. But I believe the stars are aligned. If I'm right, it will help us here in Las Vegas.

      But I feel like we have to be vigilant on keeping ourselves relevant. There are so many entertainment options; so many things to do. It's tough to get people's attention. But we have to stay ahead of the curve. We can no longer only rely on call centers and reservation clerks.

      There's a new generation that gets its information and interacts through social media, and we have to improve how we do that. We're going to spend time and effort on strengthening our work on social media over the next two or three years.

      We're seeing a convergence of the gaming industry with the gamers. They want to play our games. We have to understand how to get their social gaming experiences online to translate into brick-and-mortar casino experiences. If we can resonate with them, we can win their hearts and their minds and their wallets.

      — Ron Sylvester

    • Evadne Martinez, housekeeper, Luxor



      I'm a single mother of five and I've been a housekeeper at the Luxor for 20 years. I actually started in September 1993, a month before it opened. I've been a member of the Culinary Union for all of those years, so my view of next year depends on getting our citywide contract signed early. I'm used to having that contract every five years. It gives me peace of mind.

      Being a union member has allowed me to live independently, even as a single parent. It has given me the benefits and wages I need to support my family and have a beautiful life. I've had health insurance and job security. I've never had to be on welfare. I've been able to afford to give back to the community by volunteering and donating to charities.

      I also think the next year depends on what happens in Washington, D.C. I hope the government sides with the 98 percent on the tax cuts for the middle class. If we get some tax relief, I don't see why that wouldn't be beautiful for the people who live and work in Las Vegas.

      My goal is to work with my fellow union employees and my employer to make sure the Luxor is the best place to go on the Strip. I want it to stay strong. I've been here for 20 years. I want to retire from here someday.

      — Ron Sylvester

    • Krissee Danger, Downtown Project 'visits wizard'



      Downtownwise, a lot of things are going to happen in 2013. A lot of Downtown Project stuff will come in; Zappos is set to move into (the former) City Hall. This is the pivotal year we’re going to see whether this “downtown thing” really is going to happen. In my humble opinion, it already is. I just think the rest of the world, the rest of Las Vegas, is going to see that. We downtowners know it’s happening.

      I also predict that next summer, the new hangout spot is going to be the water park, Wet ’n’ Wild Las Vegas (being constructed at the 215 Beltway and Sunset Road; another water park, Cowabunga Bay, is being constructed in Henderson at Gibson Road and Galleria Drive).

      I also think people are going to think El Cortez is a cooler and cooler place to hang out. I already think it is.

      — Joe Schoenmann

    • Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West



      The economy and state budget are finally stabilizing, and it's time to turn our attention to infrastructure and getting it built.

      The Legislature should approve a special tax district for a football stadium and events center at UNLV. Most stadiums are a raw deal for local taxpayers, but this would fill a gap in our tourism economy because we don't have a facility like it.

      We need to continue planning and securing money for Interstate 11, the freeway from Las Vegas to Phoenix. (Lang is a consultant on the project.)

      Also, the Obama administration should come through with the loan for high-speed rail to Victorville, Calif., which should cut down on traffic on Interstate 15.

      With the expansion of Medicaid, lots of federal money will flow into Southern Nevada to give people basic medical care. To do it, we'll need to develop our health care infrastructure by attracting badly needed doctors and nurses.

      After years of dismantling and cutting, it’s time to start building.

      — J. Patrick Coolican

    • Brad Beal, president and CEO of One Nevada Credit Union



      We think Nevada will be somewhat better off a year from now. We’re not expecting a huge rebound or anything like that, but from everything we see, it appears the economic recovery will continue its slow and irregular pace. Gaming, visitor traffic, real estate values, taxable sales — they all seem to be gradually improving.

      We’re still seeing tentativeness among members for borrowing and making large purchases, but it does seem to be easing. We’re seeing a little more activity with auto purchases. A lot of people would like to buy a home but are struggling to because of the lack of inventory.

      I think our membership, at its core, has very sound credit. Delinquencies for auto loans, some second mortgages, credit cards and other consumer loans are almost down to pre-recession levels. Even in our residential mortgage portfolio, delinquency levels are almost down to that level.

      A major challenge next year will be the housing market. There are foreclosures that, under other circumstances, might have been concluded by now, but they remain open. We’ve been able to process our foreclosures without any problems, but it affects the marketplace.

      The biggest obstacle to economic recovery is the unemployment rate. We’re still hovering around 12 percent. We need to somehow create jobs and get people back to work.

      We got almost 12,000 new members this year, but we also experience a fairly high level of attrition. One of the sad effects of the recession is that some consumers run out of money; when they run out of money, they don’t need an account or a membership. We expect that to continue next year.

      — Eli Segall

    • Matt Hirsch, senior associate at Andson Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that supports education



      We won’t see dramatic results in overall quality-of-life issues for another five or 10 years, but we are moving in the right direction, and 2013 will be better for Nevada. Education is becoming a huge priority. It seems that everyone has tuned in to the huge need to address the future of our youths.

      The reason for my optimism is that talk is shifting to action. The mood of the people I talk to — at the School District, in government and in other nonprofits — has moved from depression and self-criticism to optimism that we’re evolving into a solution mode.

      But my optimism is tempered by the economy. We’re going to have another tough year, with another wave of foreclosures, families living at the borderline of poverty, and continued pressure on social services and nonprofits that will have fewer financial resources to provide assistance.

      — Tom Gorman

    • Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, incoming chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee in the 2013 Legislature



      I always say I have to be optimistic or I wouldn’t be doing this kind of work. I see some real opportunity. We have new leaders, a lot of new members in the Legislature. But it’s also going to present some challenges. I worry about partisanship, the different divisions about what we want the state to look like and how we get there.

      I think we have an absolute sense that education and the economy are closely tied. I have a vision that we continue to improve our education system — in part through new policies, in part through better funding.

      We have to better accommodate the business world, so we attract business to Nevada and help the ones already here. We also have to make sure our state is a healthy and safe place to live, taking care of the most vulnerable people. On the cultural side, we have to have museums and parks and places for people young and old.

      We’re coming out of a terrible recession. I’m very well aware of that. I hope we can talk about what we want the state to look like in two years, four years, six years and 10 years. With the Legislature meeting for only 120 days every two years, it feels like we’re always in fire-drill mode instead of being able to plan and look forward.

      I hope that in this session, since we don’t appear to be in the mode that we’re still cutting, we can start looking forward.

      We as decision-makers, with input from people around the state, have to ask questions: Do we need to have classes that are smaller, or museums that are more accessible, or are we doing enough to educate the upcoming workforce at community college or in university system? Then we have to decide how to fund that on a short-term and long-term basis.

      — David McGrath Schwartz

    • Max Jacobson-Fried, owner, Freed's Bakery



      I'm definitely optimistic for Nevada. I look at our business and I look at our customer base. Years ago our business was much more dependent on the weddings that were coming through Las Vegas and kind of the tourist industry of Las Vegas.

      What's really encouraging to us is that we have seen our local customer base grow in a really big way. It's almost like a local movement. It feels like there's a really nice sense of community really trying to support local businesses.

      I think we're still trying to overcome that recession mentality. I think mentally we have to wrap our brains around that things are starting to look better — let's start living our lives like they are getting better.

      It feels as if diversification is still an issue, for Las Vegas anyway. We're so dependent as a state on the casino industry and the tourist industry that (the recession) really just obliterated us. I guess the challenge for us, of course, will be trying to figure out how to bring in new industries and trying to make sure that if something like this were to happen again that we can try to draw on some other opportunities.

      Another challenge is to create that sense of community so people will invest in the community. And that goes along with everything: education, roads, public services, parks, just everything.

      People sometimes get stuck on movies like “The Hangover” and think that's what Las Vegas is. That will be the challenge too — letting people know that a movie like “The Hangover” is not a documentary.

      — Dave Toplikar

    • Tracie Lockett-Green, listing facilitator for Community Development Programs of Nevada, real estate broker for Strategic Reality



      I'm very optimistic. I really think we're coming toward a renaissance.

      2013 will be the start. I hope 2012 gave us some closure. The tax changes, fiscal cliff, all those worries we sat around with. Now a lot more people are letting their houses go on short sale and moving on. That's where the renaissance happens. We've been humbled, learned to live with our mistakes and are moving on accordingly.

      People are coming in and taking homes, families are moving in together and maintaining differently. The urban blight is almost scrubbed clean, and you don't see so many foreclosures.

      I think we're all humbled, very inspired and all a little gun-shy from everything we lost financially.

      I hope and pray Las Vegas won't be known as just the foreclosure capital of the world but as people who redid it and did it right — who learned from their mistakes and are maintaining a community.

      I'm hopeful, inspired and humbled, and I think it'll be a great 2013. Once the foreclosures are taken and people have the ability to purchase homes instead of investors, our community can come together.

      — Brian Nordli

    • Shari Buck, mayor of North Las Vegas



      Coming to the decision to push the button and declare a state of fiscal emergency was a relief, because I knew and the City Council knew it was the right decision to make.

      Before that, our negotiations with the unions weren’t getting anywhere. That’s when the sleepless nights came because we didn’t want to lay people off, but they weren’t willing to give up their raises. The City Council knew that was going to be a tough decision, but it was necessary.

      It stabilized us. The economic forecast within the city budget is far more stable, which will make the future more predictable.

      I see 2013 as a season of economic recovery for North Las Vegas and a season where we move forward and put the economic downturn and troubles behind us. We see some really positive indicators that next year is brighter, and there’s a more stable economy.

      Our ending fund balance is doubled from last year, and we’ve had a lot of business interest coming into the city. More people are viewing us as a place of value, where you can buy a home at a great value or expand your business. We’ve lived through the worst, but because we made those tough decisions we are now recovering.

      We go back to the negotiating table with the unions in January to talk about concessions. My hope is a different agreement is reached than what we were able to do last year. If not, then the City Council will still be strong enough to take care of its citizens.

      But my hope is it doesn’t get to that.

      — Brian Nordli

    • Blanca Gamez, UNLV student, who was brought to Las Vegas by her parents when she was 7 months old from Sonora, Mexico



      Everybody jokes about school in general when it comes to education here in Las Vegas. Everybody says, ‘Oh, you studied in Las Vegas. Do you even know how to add?’ I’m one of those individuals who has graduated from high school and graduated from college. I feel like the education system did a lot for me.

      That said, there needs to be something done in terms of funding and how the money is managed. I asked for a printout of school tuition fees I’ve paid, and from 2007 I saw it increased $1,000. It gives you a breakdown of where the money is going to, one place is technology fees, and yet I can barely find a computer sometimes. I have to go to three labs before a find a computer. Everybody is like a shark hunting for a computer. I don’t understand where my money is going some days.

      We need to focus on the economy in Las Vegas. I think we need to move on from tourism. I mean, Las Vegas in particular is a tourism city, and it always will be. But we need to move on and find more fields like sustainable energy to develop industries in. The tourism will never end, but we should grow from that.

      And nationally, with the shooting in Connecticut, I see something happening to strengthen gun controls. I think (immigration) will be brought up and talked about, but I don’t think they will get legislation done in 2013 unless it appears out of nowhere and surprises me like DACA. (Note: Gamez was referring to the federal deferred action for childhood arrivals program, which grants a work permit and two-year stay from deportation to some immigrants. She is awaiting results of her application to the program.)

      I see more bipartisanship down the road. I think the Republican Party has figured out the ball isn’t in their court and now is the time to move on and grow.

      DACA is still fresh; it’s not even a year old yet. So the benefits haven’t been shown yet of what DACA can do. Give it a year. I want to see the numbers on these individuals who you gave permits to — that they are working and putting money into the economy, so we can show this is what has flourished from it. That’s what I see happening with immigration. Give DACA a year and show the numbers, and then something else is going to happen.

      — Tovin Lapan

    • Cass Palmer, president and CEO of United Way of Southern Nevada

      Cass Palmer, president and CEO, United Way of Southern Nevada



      We’re going to have to work a lot among the nonprofits. I think donations are going to be relatively flat and stable if not pick up a little bit. But the answer is: How are we going to work together to utilize our limited resources?

      I think the economy is picking up. At the end of the day, I think people are still hesitant about going out and spending and the first thing they typically pull off the table is donations. Part of our donor base is different because we get donations through payroll deductions. That base is relatively stable. The higher-end donors are still evaluating circumstances.

      We’ve got 30,000-plus donors. Five years ago they were all saying, ‘I’m giving because I know somebody who might need it.’ Over the past five years they’re all saying, ‘I’m giving because I need to,’ and now they’re starting to turn the dime and say ‘I’m giving back because I want to give back to my city.’ They’re also recognizing that volunteering is the same as giving dollars. Some of our nonprofits would love a volunteer for three hours or four hours rather than 10 bucks here or there. It really helps them out. I think we’re going to see volunteerism go up in 2013. People want to get engaged.

      — Will D'Urso

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