LAS VEGAS – The continuing stream of news back East is about how bad things are in Nevada, and how the housing market has crumbled and taken the rest of the economy with it.
But don’t tell that to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who sees depressed home prices equating to affordability, and austerity as a path to prosperity.
“We’re in recovery mode,” Sandoval said in an interview amid the bustle of the Skybridge Alternative Investment (SALT) conference. “Gambling is up 5 percent, sales tax revenues are up. The housing prices are affordable. Manufacturing is very strong.”
Given how bad the Nevada housing drop has looked, it's hard to argue with progress otherwise -- especially in the Vegas area.
Coming from the airport, our cabbie asked how long it’s been since we were in town. For me, it has been about seven years. He warned that the changes would be stunning.
And he was right. The Strip and its periphery continue to prosper, even though some of the weaker and older casinos are beginning to fade away.
So something must be happening, right?
“In the past two months unemployment has dropped by 1.8 percent,” bragged Sandoval, who wore a sharp dark suit with a pair of steel-tipped cowboy boots ubiquitous among the natives here. “We’re starting a new slogan: ‘Service After the Sale.’”
While I’m not entirely sure what that means, there does seem to be an optimism in the state that hasn’t existed in a while, since it became the national poster child for the collapse of the subprime mortgage industry, the financial system, and the broader economy.
Sure, the gains are incremental. But Nevada at least seems to be speeding from a crawl to a walk.
“With the national economy picking up steam, the Nevada economy is showing modest signs of recovery,” Stephen P.A. Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at University of Nevada-Las Vegas, wrote in a recent research paper.
“An accelerating national economy and the increasing willingness of U.S. businesses to hire could boost consumer spending and help stimulate economic growth in Nevada,” he continued. “Despite concerns that rising fuel prices will slow the national economy and reduce discretionary spending, most of the news from Nevada’s tourism, gaming, and hospitality sectors remains moderately favorable. Nevada real estate and construction are also showing some signs of life.”
For Sandoval, the growth story goes beyond that.
He envisions Nevada as a tech state despite its reputation as a gambling hub.
From a political standpoint, the freshman Republican is casting the state as business-friendly with low taxes and regulations. The state managed to balance its budget this year without a tax increase.
”We are going to work with you and be extremely nimble in helping you with your business,” he said, describing his message to companies looking to locate in the state. “It’s important for us to have a positive business environment.”
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