“If we’re all here at Preview,” I joked to my colleague sitting next to me, “who is running Las Vegas?” A flippant remark turned into perfect fodder for a tweet, yet as I reflect back on the January 29th program, it certainly rings true. A veritable who’s who in community leaders in both the private and public sector in Las Vegas descended on the Thomas & Mack Center for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Preview 2016 event.
“Future. Forward.” was this year’s theme, and Chamber CEO and President Kristen McMillan led us through an action-packed agenda centered on Las Vegas as an exciting, ever-evolving city for visitors, businesses and citizens alike. Peppered throughout were prerecorded economic insights from Dr. Stephen Miller, director of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research. From many statistics and charts, I took away that Nevada’s economic recovery was underway − Dr. Miller dubbed Nevada “one of the fastest growing states.”
After a Star Wars lightsaber introduction, Dr. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West, took the stage to share how Las Vegas is in the midst of a Metropolitan Revolution. He shared how proactive leaders led the city through the I11 initiative to UNLV’s Medical School to an economic environment attracting businesses like Faraday Future. Yet that was the past; in Dr. Lang’s opinion, the future stems on renegotiating tourist taxes to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center, build a light rail and construct a stadium.
“I think what struck me,” says R&R Partners’ Sara Macfarlane, “is the progress the business community has made of setting goals and achieving them − the payoff (I11, UNLV Medical School) has been good. And we get a front seat at R&R.”
Next up was a panel discussion hosted by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter on the topic of aviation trends, travel and security. Joined by Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, Roger Dow, president & CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, and Warren Eales, Port director, Customs and Border Protection, this portion of the program centered on trends in “internationalization” as an opportunity for Las Vegas as a destination, namely travelers from China.
Joe Martin, director of Strategy and Planning for R&R Partners, acknowledged that the time has come to invest in “destination internationalization.” “The LVCVA has done a tremendous job cultivating international demand and growing that segment of the visitation, the idea of creating a more welcoming experience for visitors from all over the globe not only makes sense, it has become imperative. For a destination as world-renowned and as reliant on tourism as Las Vegas, our goal as a community should be to enhance the visitor experience in everything we do.”
Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, warmly introduced Dag Reckhorn from Faraday Future. After the premiere of its concept car at CES and selecting North Las Vegas for a $1 billion plant investment, Future Faraday (FF − as its VP of global manufacturing shared with us) embodied the Future. Forward. theme of today. Additionally, Reckhorn pledged $6 million over six years to local K−12 schools, which roused the audience into a round of energetic applause. Future, indeed!
The final speaker of the morning was MGM Resorts International chairman Jim Murren, who stated that his comments would be a “celebration of Las Vegas.” He mentioned that few cities can host world-class events … at the same time like Las Vegas and challenged all sectors to unite around public education. He appealed to the audience about convention business, as well as the proposed light rail: “We need to provide multiple efficient points of travel.” Murren closed with calling Las Vegas a resilient, giving, sustainable city − the “Entertainment Capitol of the World.”
The Metro Chamber of Commerce gave us a preview into the future of our city, and as we’ve moved from economic recovery to economic development, I can see how we are indeed on a path to Future. Forward. In a city known for hospitality, service and dynamic energy, it is perhaps moving forward that we do best.