Preview 2016: Murren, Faraday exec and others talk about Las Vegas and its future

Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, addresses the crowd during the Metro Chamber of Commerce annual Preview Las Vegas event Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, at Cox Pavilion.

Paid parking on the Strip was not on the agenda at Preview Las Vegas on Friday, but it was hard not to think about when the head of MGM Resorts International took the stage at Cox Pavilion.

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren gave the final address at Preview, an annual networking event presented by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. While Murren never specifically detailed his company’s recent decision to start charging for parking at its Strip resorts, that policy seemed particularly relevant when he spoke about how Las Vegas evolved and innovated over time.

Murren said the city had done well at staying ahead of the curve and “changing our product to anticipate the needs of our customers.”

“Now, some have argued that Las Vegas is about getting something for nothing. I would argue that customers come here knowing that we will exceed their expectations, we will engage and entertain them with an experience they will not soon forget, and inspire them to come back again and again,” he said.

MGM Resorts’ announcement two weeks ago that it would implement paid parking this year marked a major departure for Las Vegas, where free parking is the norm on the Strip. The decision prompted an intense backlash online: A Facebook group opposing it has nearly 1,900 members, for example.

Overnight self parking will cost $10 or less, the company has said, and fees will be implemented sometime between April and June. MGM Resorts said the policy comes as part of a $90 million initiative that includes building a new 3,000-space parking garage by Excalibur and making various improvements to its existing garages.

Murren said Las Vegas still had “plenty of value to offer,” but the city had long ago realized it had to provide “something far more than just low prices” in order to be truly successful.

He said Las Vegas has recovered since the depths of the recession, pointing to the health reflected in last year’s record 42.3 million visitors.

“That, of course, demonstrates that we must remain flexible and adaptable to survive and thrive in this ever-changing environment,” Murren said. “I can’t think of another city in America whose citizenry is as open to constant change and evolution as Las Vegas.”

Murren also gave a strong defense of the $1.1 billion tax package passed by state legislators last year with the aim of supporting public education, as well as the planned expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Murren’s comments followed an earlier speech from Dag Reckhorn, vice president of global manufacturing for Faraday Future, the electric car company that received an estimated $215.9 million in tax incentives from the state to build a $1 billion manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas in what many have called a game-changer for the region.

He began by outlining the company’s vision and its technology. He called Faraday, a company of nearly 800 employees with offices worldwide, “outside the typical automotive box.” Company executives have long argued that it is more of a technology company than an automobile company, looking to redefine mobility.

Reckhorn said the company’s national search for a factory location was “extremely competitive” — Faraday explored other states including California, Georgia and Louisiana. But the company chose Nevada for several reasons, including a competitive business environment and proximity to its California headquarters and western ports.

Reckhorn said Faraday plans to break ground on the factory, which will be located at the 18,000-acre Apex Industrial Park in the first quarter, and that Faraday will begin moving in equipment by the end of 2016.

“We are moving at an incredibly fast-paced schedule,” he said.

The presence of such a large manufacturing project in the region is expected to stimulate the economy. Reckhorn said the project will generate 2,000 construction jobs and once the plant is completed, 4,500 permanent jobs over the next decade. Fifty percent of those positions will be filled by Nevadans.

The company has also pledged to give $1 million to K-12 education for six years beginning in 2018, Reckhorn said.

“We are committed to the community of North Las Vegas, and are looking forward to being a part of its growth as we create a better future together,” he said.

The company revealed a high-end concept car at CES, but industry experts have said they are hesitant to predict the company’s success in the crowded electric-car market without seeing a mass-market production vehicle.

During his speech, Reckhorn addressed this concern, saying that design for the first production car is complete.

“We expect to showcase our first production car sooner than the world expects,” he said.

Reckhorn and Murren gave their speeches during the second part of Preview. During the first part, Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West, told the crowd that Southern Nevada had scored some big wins recently, such as securing the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument and moving forward with a medical school for UNLV.

But Lang said Nevada still lags in other areas such as university research and development expenditures, and that the Las Vegas area in particular would benefit from getting a light rail system in place. Other priorities for Southern Nevada should be the refurbishment and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center and a possible stadium, he said.

Lang was also supportive of Southern Nevada keeping more of the tax revenue it currently sends to Carson City.

Lang’s presentation was followed by a focused panel led by Rossi Ralenkotter, the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The panel featured Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International; Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association and Warren Earles, port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at McCarran International Airport. They discussed a range of tourism and transportation topics such as international visitors, air travel and the importance of using vacation days.


Sun reporter Daniel Rothberg contributed to this story.