My fears about what we have and haven’t learned from the Great Recession are softened somewhat by the small, promising signs of hope I observe in the business community.
My hope is that the Great Recession changed how Southern Nevada businesses view their own practices and long-held beliefs—including a better understanding of the underlying strengths and weakness of our economy—and what kind of tax structure we need to support a vibrant modern economy.
I also hope that the business community understands the fundamental importance of an educated and skilled workforce. Why? Because an economy built largely on discretionary spending by tourists and low-skill, low-wage workers is problematic in today’s global economy. And it’s not an effective way to attract a broad range of companies to the region, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) space.
Finally, my hope is that the general business community recognizes that the Las Vegas brand we market and the global image we portray do mean something when trying to attract investment, business expansion and relocation, and skilled and educated workers.
My concern is that, as the economy improves, many in the business community will forget the lessons of the Great Recession and return to doing business as usual. Hubris has never been in short supply in Southern Nevada, because of our business culture and because the region had such a prolonged period of hyper-growth. So the jury is still out on whether Las Vegas will see a renaissance in business thinking.
That said, I do see a newly discovered sense of realism and pragmatism in both the business community and the governmental sector about Southern Nevada’s future. What I mean is that the era of irrational cheerleading and economic development by slogan is over. There seems be a true recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of Southern Nevada combined with an understanding of the opportunities and threats facing the region.
I’m guardedly optimistic about 2013. Most, if not all, of the economic and market indicators have either stabilized or are modestly improving, and have been doing so for more than a year. No, Southern Nevada will not see a “V”-style recovery, but we are certainly seeing an elongated Nike Swoosh-style recovery. And that’s good considering the economic trauma the region has gone through during the last five years.
The business community, in general, knows that the Valley’s gilded age is not likely to come back anytime soon, and that a large commitment of what I call the “3Ts” (time, talent and treasure) is needed to put the economy on a sustainable glide path. I truly believe the commitment is there today, because of the pain wrought by the Great Recession.