In a town grown accustomed to bad economic news, the prospect of new jobs draws a crowd.
Journalists, business leaders and some of the most influential politicians in the state descended on a nondescript office park in Las Vegas Wednesday to fete the arrival of 130 new jobs at an online travel company.
The two-hour event was billed as a celebration of an expansion at Expedia.com, which is adding workers to Egencia, a business travel division.
It also showed just how hungry business and political leaders are for good economic news, as U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., checked in via satellite and both major party candidates for governor dropped by.
Everyone wanted to grasp onto the Expedia expansion as a sign Nevada can climb out of a deep recession that's evaporated an estimated 180,000 jobs statewide since early 2008.
"I want to tout Expedia's success and work together with you to make sure they are not a lonely example of what we can do together," Rory Reid, the Democratic candidate for governor, told the audience. "We have hard working people, tremendous resources, we just need to find partners like Expedia to make this happen."
His Republican opponent, Brian Sandoval, also attended the event and, although he didn't address the audience, was eager to talk about how he would encourage more job creation.
"First and foremost we have to preserve our pro business environment in the state of Nevada," Sandoval said. "One of the reasons Nevada is very competitive in attracting business and having business expand is the fact we are a business friendly state."
Sen. Reid, who spoke briefly from Washington, D.C., wanted to remind the audience Expedia took advantage of tax credits in the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment, or HIRE, Act that took effect March 18.
"I appreciate Expedia taking advantage of that," he said.
The new jobs are in Expedia's Egencia division, a part of the company that helps firms organize business travel.
Most of the new workers will earn about $30,000 to $40,000 annually plus benefits and be tasked with helping customers coordinate travel arrangements by phone.
Brett Thompson, vice president of government and corporate affairs for Expedia, described it as skilled work, beyond what is required of telemarketers or high-volume call center employees.
"These people are better understood as travel experts," he said. "It is not something you go and put in Bangalore."
Although the new jobs at Expedia are encouraging economic news, it will be many years before Nevada regains all the jobs it lost since the recession began, said Jeremy Aguero, a principal at the economics research firm Applied Analysis.
That means politicians, particularly the winner of the race for governor, will grapple with a state government operating on much less money than it did during the boom. They also may have to raise taxes or change the tax structure.
Both Reid and Sandoval have said they won't raise taxes and are content with the current tax structure.
But neither has laid out in detail how he would trim nearly $3 billion in expenses or more ---- the amount of cuts it is projected to take to deliver a balanced budget for 2011-13 ---- from a two-year $6.6 billion general fund budget.
"I don't know how with the existing tax structure ... that you could balance the state's budget and provide any level of service that is even comparable to where we are today," Aguero said.
"I don't think that is possible."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.