Seems there has been a lot of talk about our local economy lately. Or, at least, I’ve been hanging around the right places for such talk.
I went to the Las Vegas First Independent Business Alliance banquet nearly two weeks ago and heard Community First Bank President Keith Tucker speak. Then last week I attended one of the two mayoral candidate forums put on by the alliance and heard four of the eight candidates respond to small business concerns. And just a few days ago I met with Las Vegas City Manager Timothy Dodge to discuss his idea of bringing the various business interests together under some common objectives.
I don’t recall hearing much emphasis on unity from the candidates at the business forum, but I’m sure if one were to ask them they’d all agree that the business community needs to get over its differences and work together. Pretty much everybody’s saying that after the brouhaha about a funding application that pitted the chamber and the alliance against each other.
The fact is, it would be hard to find anyone to disagree that our community divisions are holding us back. The disagreement is in who should get the blame for it all.
At the alliance banquet, Tucker emphasized the need for a more unified approach to our problems, but he also spoke plainly about the weaknesses and strengths of our local economy. I didn’t know it as the time, but his words put me in the right frame of mind for my conversation with Dodge last week.
Dodge is also looking at our local economic circumstances from a realistic perspective. He too sees the need to bury past differences and move forward together, but he also sees some economic challenges that must be addressed —whether people are unified or not.
Here are three highlights stemming from our conversation:
• Dodge wants to see the chamber move away from marketing, at least for the time being, and focus its attention on member services. I wholeheartedly agree. Reaching out to local businesses — where the bulk of the chamber’s membership should come from — is a great way to rebuild the chamber’s viability.
• In addition to the multiple business associations in Las Vegas — the chamber, the alliance, MainStreet de Las Vegas, the Economic Development Corp. — Dodge believes that a housing component must have a place at the table. Las Vegas has a shortage of affordable housing for middle-income families interested in homeownership, and it’s driving some young families out of town. Address this housing shortage and our population trend could start going up instead of down.
• Of course, this is where we must discuss water, which is far and above the biggest issue facing Las Vegas, its residents, the municipal election candidates, Tim Dodge and city staff. Without an adequate water supply, and the security of knowing it will remain adequate for years, people get nervous talking about population growth or economic expansion. Dodge said he doesn’t want any other economic issue to divert the city from this No. 1 priority, but he also points out how the city isn’t taking its eye off the water issue.
Specifically, Dodge talked about how the diversion dam is saving us water in the here-and-now, and how fixing our leaking system will add tremendously to the water supply. We touched upon the preliminary engineering report and how it provides some direction for long-term solutions to our storage, supply and system needs, and we agreed that it’s a document that we’ve got to utilize both now and into the future.
Yes, everyone’s talking about water, but right behind it is a conversation about economic development. Maybe that’s a good indicator that, while Las Vegas has its divisions, its citizens see a glimmer of hope in the days and years ahead.
Or, maybe I’m just hanging around the right places.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.