Yes, We’ll Make It

The experts have looked at the numbers, and the numbers aren’t good. Perhaps this sounds familiar. Experts are always looking at numbers—what else could possibly be meaningful?—and, lately, the numbers are never good. So with all due respect, when the Southern Nevada Index of Leading Economic Indicators takes a little dive, as it did in September, indifference is probably a better response than panic—unless you’re a politician, in which case you should by all means panic, because the next job to go is yours.

The Index tells us many things. For instance, it tells us that fewer residential building permits were issued in September than in August. This is surprising, because it was really hot in August, and it’s hard to even think about building things under those conditions. If we were that tough in August, we ought to be unstoppable in the crisp autumn air.

This is where we drop the statistics, and the hammers and nails, for that matter, and put our fine Valley to the eyeball test: Are we building? And what are we building?

• We are building community. As Stacy J. Willis reported in the Sept. 29 Vegas Seven, North Las Vegas residents have responded to their city’s budgetary shortfalls by taking it upon themselves to keep their parks clean.

• We are building consensus. This summer, Henderson’s plan to cement the attractive but eroding Pittman Wash set citizens into motion to find a better solution. Early in October, residents and the city came up with a plan that solves the wash’s erosion problem while maintaining a natural appearance and habitat for native animals.

• We are building traditions. In recent weeks, Southern Nevadans have been able to cheer on triathletes on the streets of Henderson; watch Beckett on Fremont Street; roam Boulder City’s parks while admiring arts, crafts, and speckled sunlight; check out hot rods at Barrett-Jackson at Mandalay Bay and at the Henderson Super Run on Water Street; and watch Shakespeare under the stars.

• We are building extended families. On a Sunday in late September, a small Henderson church brought a couple hundred people from ages 8 to 80 together for its annual Gong Show. Kids played “Linus and Lucy” on the piano. Grownups sang “Chapel of Love.” A young guy proposed to his girlfriend.

Something like this happens just about every weekend in churches and synagogues and community centers all across the Valley. We join forces, we laugh together, we sustain our strength so that we may be of help to one another in times of weakness.

These, too, are indicators of Southern Nevada’s health. And there’s good news, after all.

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There may be a sizable upside to homes in distress. Yes, it sounds cruel, but those who are not paying their mortgages are spending that money elsewhere, and that keeps the capitalist machine chugging along. It’s called a “soft stimulus,” according to Las Vegas real estate analyst Frank Nason, who used to crunch numbers for developers during the boom, but today can’t keep his eyes off the bust. In a recent newsletter to local economists, the analyst pondered the economic impact of the roughly 8,500 owner-occupied short-sale listings that month in Nevada.