They say to survive the harsh desert, you need planning and grit to overcome the odds. North Las Vegas has both in spades, thanks to the unyielding efforts of Mayor John Jay Lee and the rest of the staff at city hall. They single-handedly brought the city back from the brink, restoring tax revenue while ensuring that needed improvements were made.
At the same time, several lucrative business deals have resulted in economic growth. The most notable of which includes the Faraday Future’s factory, the Hyperloop experimental facility and the re-emergence of the Park Highlands development, seemingly resurrected from the sands.
As the memory of the recession begins to fade, the city of North Las Vegas and its residents can look forward to the incredible economic potential ahead.
Playing with a Negative Stack
In Vegas, “the house always wins”, but the mortgage crisis of 2008 proved that the houses themselves do not always win. As a rapidly growing bedroom community of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas suffered greatly in the midst of rapid foreclosures. At the time, housing starts and developments were relied upon too heavily as a cash cow for municipal revenue.
“The city of North Las Vegas was operating on connection fees for new construction,” says assistant city manager Ryann Juden. “It wasn’t a very sustainable model.”
Park Highlands, in particular, caused significant loss when the project was abandoned. The city was relying on the sale of permits and connection fees for the estimated $5 billion-plus project. Anticipating the income, the city had already planned and built a new $135 million City Hall building and a $300 million water reclamation facility. The bottom dropping out of the housing market could not have happened at a worse time.
The tax dispersion formula and a lack of growth in property values left the city strapped for revenue. As a bedroom community that provides housing for the workforce on the strip, “the consolidated tax (C-tax) formula has historically left North Las Vegas at a disadvantage,” explains Juden.Things were so bad that talks were rampant of a potential state takeover of the NLV city government.
Mayor John Lee and the Turnaround
Despite the dire straits the city found itself in, it gained footing thanks to major budgetary and policy changes following the election of current Mayor John Lee. Massive cutbacks prevented defaults, and a series of labor union disputes were eventually settled in a relatively amicable way.
More importantly, sources of revenue began to emerge. Mayor John Lee aggressively chased the Faraday Future’s deal, allowing for the lynchpin Apex Industrial Park to gain its first tenant and jumpstart the process of connecting utilities. The final approval of licenses for medical marijuana businesses also provided another boon, creating $450,000 in revenue over the past few years, according to NLV director of economic and business development Gina Gavan.
Staffing numbers have also rebounded, and the budget has become more flexible since the deficit was hewn down considerably. Most exciting of all, officials hint of things yet to come, including the announcement of another major area investor, this time from a genuine Fortune 500 company.
On the whole, things could not look brighter for North Las Vegas, which shines like a jewel in the desert.