Andre Agassi: Las Vegas is back in business
Las Vegas native and tennis star-turned-businessman Andre Agassi has told CNBC that business in Sin City is picking up and tourism is thriving once more following the recession that hit the city hard.
Asked about the impact the financial crash had on his hometown, Agassi told CNBC Meets' Tania Bryer: "It's been tough. You know, we've been the fastest growing city in America for a lot of years. Any city that grows that fast...it's going to be the hardest hit, and it has been for a multitude of reasons."
"The housing market has picked up, no doubt about it - a good 30 percent - and we're starting to see tourism pick up and some of the life-blood in our culture here pick up."
Las Vegas Story
A tourist mecca, Las Vegas enticed Americans for years with a good job market and cheap housing: its population rose from 700,000 in the 1980s to 1.9 million today.
That fueled a property boom in Vegas. But the onset of the financial crash saw 35,000 homes in the city abandoned and the unemployment rate rose from 4 percent in 2006 to 13.4 percent in 2011.
But the city has recently been bouncing back. While unemployment is now 9.8 percent, still above the national average, it is the fastest improvement in unemployment reduction among all major U.S. cities.
The Echelon project, a $4 billion resort that began construction in 2007 only to be halted when the crash hit, was recently bought by Malaysia's Genting Group, which plans to create a China-themed resort on the 87-acre site.
On the other hand, the Fontainebleau site, a 68-story unfinished hotel and casino development on the Strip, still lies dormant.
"It's still a long way to go," Agassi admitted. "It's a big investment and we hit some hard times, but Vegas is a city that believes they can do this in the middle of the desert. We'll get through it."
Agassi has had his own difficulties with property investments. He, and his wife Steffi Graf, invested in a 300-unit luxury hotel and residence at Tamarack Resort in Idaho in 2006 only to withdraw three years later following delays and difficult market conditions.
"There were some mistakes and I wish we hadn't done that, but at the end of the day you've got to just learn from those things," Agassi said, "
"Of course mistakes happen. That's how you get good at something: you miss and you make. But now that I've got my hands on the reins I feel pretty darned confident."
CNBC Meets: Andre Agassi will air on Wednesday 12 June.