In trying to hash out the lessons learned from the collapse of the economy, 70 of Southern Nevada’s business leaders, academics and politicians returned to a suggestion that has been around for years: Diversify the local economy.
It was nowhere near a revelation. But during good times, it was easy to let the status quo continue, so the region relied heavily on gaming, tourism and growth-fueled industries such as construction and real estate. Having all the local economy’s eggs in one basket is the main reason Southern Nevada is in a deeper hole than the rest of the nation — and is expected to take longer to climb out.
So when the Lied Institute of Real Estate Studies at UNLV gathered the opinions and observations of community leaders for its “What Happened? What’s Next? Can We Hit the Reset Button?” report, one consensus was a hope that maybe things got bad enough this time that everyone would finally recognize that economic diversification is crucial.
The problem is that it will take more spending to get there. For one thing, economic diversification will require a greater investment in K-12 and higher education, says John Restrepo, principal of Restrepo Consulting Group, who gave presentations on the economy during the series of round-table discussions that were the basis for the report.
Why education? Because Las Vegas must do more to improve the quality of the workforce to get more businesses — and a greater variety of businesses — to set up shop here, Restrepo said.
Well, duh! Of course, we need a better public education system. We absolutely need economic diversification... But do these people really get it?
Somer Hollingsworth, president of the Nevada Development Authority, a nonprofit group that helps lure businesses to the region, agrees that more needs to be done to diversify the economy.
He said there has been little money to compete against states that provide incentives to lure companies and pay for marketing campaigns, thus getting the word out about advantages of moving to the state. Nevada could take advantage of tax woes in states such as California and New Jersey and possibly hire someone based in California to help lure companies, he said.
“You have got to put that message out there and let people know about it,” Hollingsworth said. “We have never put an emphasis on diversification (as a state).”
Oh yes, like I really trust these knuckleheads with a plan for economic diversification. Yeah, how did that "flash mob dance" on Hollywood Blvd. go?
When will they learn that we won't achieve economic stability until we build the kind of infrastructure that supports more than just the typical low-wage casino jobs, 24-hour call centers, and oversized garbage dumps? Thanks to an egregiously regressive tax structure, we can't properly fund basic services, like education, health care, and transportation, necessary to build a stable state that will lure more businesses to come and stay in Nevada. This regressive system that "soaks the poor", coddles the super-rich, and fails to adequately fund our government may have fueled the artificial "boom" that precariously propped up before it collapsed like a house of cards.
I'm sure our wonderful "Luv-Guv" won't like this, but someone needs to step forward, speak the truth, and present a real plan for real economic stability. And yes, this means starting with a sensible tax plan that gives our state the ability to properly fund the education, health care, and other public infrastructure that will make businesses want to move to Nevada. Just don't expect NDA to organize a "flash mob dance" in Hollywood for it.