The road to 2020 hasn’t been the easiest for Southern Nevada. We’ve endured our share of speed bumps and pot holes along the way, but as the new decade begins, our region is riding a wave of momentum that has it poised for one of its best years ever, while setting it up for success for years to come.
Before looking ahead, it’s important to recall where we were just a decade ago. In 2010, unemployment was at 13 percent and rising; three out of four home mortgages were underwater; one in 10 homes was in foreclosure; developments stalled or disappeared altogether; and tens of thousands of people were out of work. I could list more, but living through those years was painful enough, so I won’t belabor the point. The key takeaway is that, today, we’re a long way from those lows. Southern Nevada has not only recovered since then, it has flourished.
The region is again among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation, both in terms of population and jobs. Employment is at an all time high. Annual visitor volume and convention attendance are at near-peak levels. McCarran International Airport is welcoming more passengers than ever. These successes have been made possible in part by decisions and commitments made over the past decade in both the public and private sectors. For example, the development of T-Mobile Arena, the addition of Terminal 3 at McCarran and the Project Neon improvements along Interstate 15 not only helped pull Southern Nevada from the depths of the economic crisis, they set the stage for the next 10 years and beyond.
The first year of the new decade is setting up to be not just a marked difference from 10 years ago, but potentially a banner year for tourism in Southern Nevada. While our state and regional economies have diversified to be less reliant on tourism over the past 10 years, there is no doubt that tourism remains the primary engine of our economic success. The more than 42 million visitors who come to Las Vegas for business and pleasure directly or indirectly support 2 out of 5 jobs, a third of all wages and half of the regional economy. From servers on the Strip to accountants in Summerlin, we all benefit from a healthy and robust tourism economy.
That is why the next 12 months are so exciting for Southern Nevada. This is the year that Las Vegas becomes an NFL city, something that was inconceivable 10 years ago. It starts in April when Las Vegas hosts the NFL Draft, a signature event for the league and a showcase for its future talent. Soon thereafter, the Raiders will officially relocate here and take up residence at their new Henderson headquarters and Allegiant Stadium, with 10 home games on the schedule. UNLV football will share the stadium as a home field, and the college football season at Allegiant Stadium will wrap up with the Pac-12 Conference championship game and the new Las Vegas Bowl match-up between the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference. Concerts and other entertainment events at the stadium will cement Las Vegas’ reputation as the entertainment and sports capital of the nation.
The all-important convention and trade show industry is also aligning for another record breaking year. A number of large scale trade shows that rotate through Las Vegas on a multi-year basis will hold events here in 2020. CONEXPO-CON/AGG, MINExpo, InfoComm and FABTECH, which come to Southern Nevada every two to four years, will join the dozens of annual conventions being held to help boost overall convention attendance throughout the year. The Las Vegas Convention Center expansion is on track to open ahead of CES next January, providing additional space to host more shows and allow the largest shows, such as CES, more room to grow.
While the convention center is moving toward completion, a unique and ground breaking transportation system is taking shape beneath it. The Boring Company’s underground transit system below the convention center is scheduled to be up and running in time for CES. The system will move conventioneers across the convention center campus in about a minute, and it will serve as a prototype for potential expansion that could someday service the entire Las Vegas Strip and urban valley.
The calendar is also lining up to boost tourism in 2020, including a leap year adding an extra day to the year and New Year’s Eve falling on a Thursday, with New Year’s Day on the following Friday, creating the potential for a long and successful holiday weekend to close 2020 and start 2021 off strong. 2020 could be made even better if the Vegas Golden Knights make a deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Las Vegas Aces capture that elusive WNBA championship, or if the NFL announces Las Vegas as the newest Super Bowl city (fingers crossed). All in all, the year ahead of us is shaping up to be one of the most memorable, most impactful and most meaningful our city has ever experienced.
What a difference a decade makes.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal were not involved in the creation of this content.