While the population and job boom Las Vegas has enjoyed in recent
years slowed in 2007, several big hotel and condo projects being
constructed on the city's famous "Strip" signal that the city's
growth explosion may see a future resurgence.
lure of plentiful jobs, good wages, and affordable housing made
North Las Vegas the fastest-growing large city in the country
from mid-2005 to mid-2006, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
While migration has slowed about 5 percent since then, the area
still attracts between 5,000 and 6,000 new residents each month,
according to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
"The job growth has slowed down and the housing affordability
has declined here," said Keith Schwer, director of the Center
for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada,
"One of the reasons for slower growth in travel or tourism
is that we are at or near capacity. When you are operating at
90 percent capacity, you don't have that many more rooms,"
And in Las Vegas, where tourism is by far the dominant industry,
more hotel rooms mean more jobs.
There are currently 40,000 new rooms under construction through
various projects, a substantial jump from the current 133,000
rooms. Each new hotel room creates roughly two direct jobs, and
two indirect jobs, according to Cara Roberts, director of press
relations at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
Wynn Resorts is slated to open the $1.7 billion Encore resort
in 2008, MGM's $7 billion CityCenter, featuring condos and retail
space, will open in 2009, and Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $4 billion Echelon
Place is set for 2010.
"It's going to attract more workers to our region, those
people will need housing, and it will be another shot in the arm
to the local economy," Roberts said.
While many of the new projects include plans for new condominiums,
many of these pricey properties are aimed at wealthy travelers
buying second and third homes or people looking for a smart investment
Construction of homes that are actually marketed to Las Vegas
residents has dropped sharply over the past year.
Corporate investment in properties and construction along the
Strip has helped counter the drop in the housing market, which
"has basically moved the economy sideways," said Schwer.
Roberts said the drop in the housing market was not entirely
"We were probably due for the market kind of settling down,"
Roberts said. "Las Vegas is experiencing something similar
to what is going on around the country."
Gaming revenue has also been down in recent months as tourists
from around the country are feeling the same economic pinch and
adjusting spending choices accordingly.
While Las Vegas has certainly not been immune to market forces,
anticipation is high that the opening of the new resorts over
the next few years will contribute to a rebound.
In the meantime, Las Vegas' city services are playing catch up
to handle the influx of people. Las Vegas has always had a rapidly
expanding population, Roberts said, and the rate at which expanded
infrastructure needs to be built and put on line is a challenge.
"We've consistently been one of the top growing cities over
the last 20 years," Roberts said.
As a result of the ever expanding population, Clark County, which
includes the city of Las Vegas, builds a new school each month.
Building new roads and providing utilities has, at times, been
a mad dash of logistics.
The development and population growth also means the city has
had to set building regulations for water conservation -- a major
issue in the southwestern desert -- and for air quality. A state
law also encourages eco-friendly "green" building through
Roberts attributes Las Vegas' constant growth to the economic
and entrepreneurial opportunities in the city and the low tax
Nevada has no corporate or personal income tax, which is attractive
to many people, especially retirees. The tax environment has also
helped attract more non-tourism related businesses to the Las
"Outside of travel and tourism we don't have big industry,"
Schwer said. "But the non-tourism businesses that are bringing
people in from the outside have grown. For businesses from California
it is a favorable location, favorable tax environment."
Another draw for many individuals is the availability of service
jobs that pay relatively more than in other cities and may not
require a higher education credential.
"We've become a more sophisticated business climate,"
Roberts said. "But there are still quite a few jobs that
are attainable even if you haven't gotten a post secondary degree."
As for growth of hotels and resorts on the Strip, if history
proves correct, tourists just can't get enough.
"It's always been a process of: build it, pause, see if
we can fill it up, then signal back and we will build more,"