Better Days?

Gov. Brian Sandoval has just published his Big Plan for Saving Nevada—actually called Moving Nevada Forward: A Plan for Excellence in Economic Development 2012-2014. This baby has been in the works since Sandoval signed AB 449, the Economic Development Bill, into law back in June. Then we were teased in November when Brookings Mountain West put out its whopper of a report called Unify, Regionalize, Diversify, An Economic Development Agenda for Nevada. Suddenly it’s become almost fashionable to talk about overreliance on a consumption-based economy, regional cooperation and cluster development.

Sandoval’s plan, downloadable at, will establish and fund regional development authorities to do most of the heavy lifting, and it emphasizes high-paying jobs, global export, technology and clean energy. It’s full of details and deadlines that will make it easy to grade the governor’s progress, a rare thing in a world of political unaccountability. And it’s surprisingly evocative for a government tome, almost New Deal-ish in its sweeping references to our collective well-being: In his introduction, Sandoval encourages us to think of the state’s first-graders, “their bright young faces flushed with excitement about what they might be when they grow up.” The document, says Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at UNLV, shows the state is not only talking a good game on diversification but actually focusing on it as a concrete policy.

Lang was among the believers at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s Preview Las Vegas 2012 on Feb. 9 at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. Richard Florida, the Bono of redevelopment, was there too. Best known for his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida often cites downtown Las Vegas as an example of a redo on the right track. Meanwhile, Las Vegas’ own oft-quoted Jeremy Aguero talked about upward local trends in income and employment—and his thesis was supported by the recent news that more visitors came to Las Vegas in 2011 than ever before. The Goodmans were in attendance, too, reminding us that a good show still sells. Oscar had his showgirls, and Carolyn answered with a couple of buffed boxers posing at her side.

Granted, all of these people are paid to be optimistic, but it feels like something real is starting to rumble under the surface.