The B.S.:

Suburban cities adapt amid economic uncertainty

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

VEGAS INC Coverage

Back when things were really booming here — you remember those days — a trip from Henderson to North Las Vegas was something you often had to plan your day around. Gridlock ensued on Interstate 15 most weekday afternoons, usually spoiling even the best of Outlook calendars.

It’s almost certainly a reflection of our economic times that the roadways are not always so congested now, an upside being that on Jan. 10 I was punctual for the annual North Las Vegas State of the City luncheon at Texas Station.

It’s not just the traffic that’s been reduced; given its size, North Las Vegas had more home foreclosures, more business failures and more bad press than other cities. Toss in a contested city council election, a massive budget deficit, the threat of insolvency and the resultant cutbacks in city staff, and you have the perfect storm.

Once you catch your breath, you’re left with a city that needs some love and a sense that things are getting better.

So, it was apropos that thanks and optimism were indeed what Mayor Shari Buck and City Manager Tim Hacker — who jumped into the frying pan just last September — dispensed to a crowd of almost 600 people gathered for the noon event.

Gratitude to the staff for doing more with less and to community volunteers for stepping up to challenges. Optimism where it could be found, as reflected in things that are already a reality or even simply being discussed.

Mayors Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas and Andy Hafen of Henderson and a lot of prospective and current political figures listened as Buck ran through bullet items on things like the bright, new city hall building, which will put all city services under one roof and actually was built under budget. She saluted businesses that are in the city now and business that is coming. She introduced a video that depicted a strong city with plenty of promise.

A member of the City Council since 1999, Buck understands what growth is about and knows what it means to go from top to bottom. From 2000 to 2008, the Census Bureau ranked North Las Vegas among the five fastest-growing large cities in the country each year. The city was even ranked No. 1 in 2007, just before the tide turned into a tsunami and the lists were turned upside down.

But still North Las Vegas survived, and now it’s even setting modest goals. This year’s plan, Buck said, is that “citizens will continue to enjoy the quality of life they moved here for.”

To her credit, Buck seems to have accepted the role that is so necessary for the mayor of North Las Vegas these days: to help manage the emotions of rattled citizens and business people.

When she talks of community events, parks and trails, solar panels, a new multi-generational rec center and even a program to deal with foreclosures, you feel better. When you hear of a more cooperative spirit between the private and public sectors, it makes sense. And it’s uplifting to hear talk of modest expansion and juicy rumors of new businesses.

Still, the most appropriate quote of the day was voiced by an early speaker, North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mike PeQueen.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but those most adaptive to change,” PeQueen said. “What goes down does eventually go up — just not on the timeline we’d prefer.”


Later that day, at the other end of the valley, was the Henderson Development Association’s Year in Review, an annual collaboration between the city and the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. A crowd of several hundred attended the program and ensuing reception at Green Valley Ranch Resort. They were greeted by economic development whiz Bob Cooper and HDA Chair John Ramous.

Using an informal “living room” conversation arrangement, Cooper and a series of program moderators interviewed representatives of key projects and sectors of the local economy. They also handed out their two big annual awards.

The private sector award went to Laird Noble Sanders, the owner of Lake Mead Boat Storage and a consummate representative of the Henderson community known for colorful sweaters and a patented “You’re the best!” slogan.

The O’Callaghan public sector award went to Tom Fay, another solid member of the Henderson community who is executive director of the Henderson Libraries.

Congratulations to both men. In each case, the HDA chose well.