Southern Nevada is ready

Building officials consider what’s to come in busier times

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

It was one of those meetings that makes you feel optimistic, even at 7 a.m. That’s the time people get together from NAIOP, the commercial real estate organization. Its members are definitely morning people.

No matter how good or bad business is, NAIOP’s builders, developers and commercial Realtors never seem to sleep in. Which means that many of the other folks who support and surround their industries can’t, either.

The topic of the July 19 discussion at the Orleans was “How to Work with Building Authorities.” Four veteran officials were on hand to discuss their operations and describe their departments’ contingency plans for keeping up in a construction recovery — or even a boom, if you want to think big.

On the panel were Chris Knight, director of building and safety for the city of Las Vegas, as well as building officials Gregory Blackburn of North Las Vegas, Ron Lynn of Clark County and Mohammad Jadid of Henderson.

All of them have had their budgets whacked in recent years, but their ability to keep pace with builders remains essential to a construction and commercial real estate rebound. So they talked about how they’ll keep up in a recovery. They reported they even see modest hints that one is under way.

“We’re seeing some positive growth. We’ve found the bottom and are on our way back,” said Blackburn, who noted that remodeling and tenant improvements have kept his smaller staff busy over the past few years.

Jadid reported that Henderson has issued 5,171 building permits so far this year, 165 more than during the same period in 2011. He noted that Union Village continues to move forward, and there’s a big new St. Rose tower and parking lot being built. He said Henderson monitors service levels in its departments, and should they begin to slip, the city will review staffing levels.

Knight said Las Vegas is seeing a “slight uptick” in single-family residential permits, but commercial permits remain flat. Since fees pay for staffing, the city would need additional revenue to add staff. Knight watches economic indicators and said he doesn’t plan to add personnel until the economy truly has improved.

All of the speakers expressed pride about the cooperation taking place among entities in recent years and marveled about what Jadid said are now “almost invisible” jurisdictional lines. It wasn’t so long ago there were significant code differences among the valley’s municipalities. But a crisis can inspire positive change and is also perhaps a reason their offices are generally considered more helpful now.

“It’s a much more collaborative approach these days,” Knight said. “In the building and safety department, I think you will find us a lot more customer-friendly.”

Contingency plans and a friendlier environment mean the stage is set. What we need next are a few more transactions.