67°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Apex Industrial Complex gives new life to North Las Vegas

North Las Vegas was on the brink of financial collapse two years ago, nearly taken over by the state to pay its debts.

That was when Mayor John Lee breathed new life into the Apex Industrial Complex, a long-shelved plan that called for building a vast commercial park on the northernmost edge of town.

The biggest challenge was finding a company willing to blaze its own trail on a vacant chunk of land with no access to utilities. Once an anchor is secured, Lee thought, perhaps other businesses would follow.

“The county has the Strip, Las Vegas has Fremont Street, but I want North Las Vegas to be the breadbasket of this region,” Lee said during an interview inside his office on the ninth floor of City Hall.

“That means I have to diversify the economy for families working in North Las Vegas with jobs other than tourism and gaming,” the mayor said. “I want to build up revenues for the city so that it isn’t barely squeaking along.”

North Las Vegas needed an economic jolt. Lee recalled hearing about an up-and-coming Chinese electric car company that could give the city some juice.

Enter Faraday Future, which was already looking at spots in Detroit, Georgia, Alabama and elsewhere in the United States to build a $1 billion factory to manufacture electric vehicles.

Lee cold-called the company, asking for a 15-minute meeting at Faraday’s Los Angeles-area headquarters in February 2015. He ended up staying for more than two hours, making the case for North Las Vegas by rolling out a map and pointing to Apex.

“We were looking for sites of a significant size that could meet our plans to build a factory an experience center and a test track,” said Stacy Morris, a spokeswoman for Faraday Future.

“It was the right location for us on many levels, because the site has access to major highways and rail,” Morris said. “An advantage of Southern Nevada is the warm climate so there’s less likelihood of having interference from snow to slow down the logistics supply process.”

MAKING THE CUT

As Faraday’s list of prospective cities shortened, North Las Vegas kept making the cut with its promise for a wide-open space, a speedy permitting process and a relative proximity to the company’s headquarters in Southern California.

But the city needed to sweeten the pot with some financial incentives — something the mayor couldn’t do alone.

Lee, who served 14 years as a Nevada lawmaker, said he called Gov. Brian Sandoval to help seal the deal by offering a massive tax break — similar to one that was approved by the state Legislature in 2014 as a way to lure Tesla into building a $5 billion factory east of Reno.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development stepped in during the latter half of 2015 to craft the financial package, along with helping to clear some hurdles that would allow utility lines to eventually connect at Faraday’s factory just west of U.S. Highway 93 and Grand Valley Parkway.

“Generally, the state and North Las Vegas have shown that we are anxious for businesses to come here, and that we are looking for ways to be able to say yes to what they need,” said Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The deal was completed by December, when state lawmakers held a special session to approve a $215 million incentive package for Faraday. Along with tax breaks, the company will receive $9,500 for every employee hired, for up to 4,000 workers, Hill said.

In turn, Hill said that Faraday must invest at least $1 billion into building the 3 million-square-foot manufacturing plant before the incentives kick in. The facility is expected to house 4,500 full-time employees, at least half of whom must be Nevada residents, as part of an agreement reached with the city. City officials have said that they hope additional jobs could come in the form of suppliers moving into town to manufacture parts for Faraday’s vehicles.

Grading started on the Faraday site last month, and five of the company’s employees are working inside a 2,885-square-foot office at North Las Vegas City Hall, under a $64,047 yearlong lease.

Still, Faraday executives largely remain silent about the factory’s construction timeline, and when the first car will roll off the assembly line.

“As you can imagine, this is a complicated project,” Morris, the Faraday spokeswoman, said. “We’re trying to take a program that would normally take four years, and reduce it by half the time. Our car is futuristic, and our plant will be as well.”

HYPERLOOP’S SPEEDY MOVE

Just as negotiations were wrapping up with Faraday last December, another emerging high-tech company inquired about doing business in Nevada.

Hyperloop Technologies, now known as Hyperloop One, was looking for a site to build an open-air track for testing a system that promises to transport passengers and cargo through metal tubes at speeds of more than 700 mph. Along with Nevada, Hyperloop executives were also considering sites in California, Colorado and Texas.

To prove their concept, time was of the essence to have a prototype built by the start of 2017, said Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One.

“The only way to prove this mode of transportation is viable and the only way to show people that it works is to get it built,” Lloyd said. “It allows us to raise more money from investors and move ahead.”

It would have taken about two years to get the necessary permits in California, threatening to derail Hyperloop’s deadline to prove its concept. Other sites that were considered in Colorado and Texas were too far from the company’s home base in Los Angeles.

Like Faraday, Hyperloop liked the open land and rapid permit process that was promised in North Las Vegas.

But unlike Faraday, Hyperloop went straight to the Governor’s Office of Economic Assistance to ask for assistance. In less than three weeks, Hyperloop was awarded $10 million in tax incentives to move into the Apex Industrial Complex, about two miles away from Faraday.

“Simply making sure that Hyperloop had the ability to build what they needed in a quick fashion was the most important part of that deal,” said Hill, the head of the Governor’s Office of Economic Assistance.

In less than five months, Hyperloop conducted a successful open-air test. More recently, construction started Aug. 29 on the prototype that company executives are still hoping to complete shortly after the new year, when the company is expected to grow to 100 employees.

“That kind of speed is unheard of for any company,” Lloyd said.

‘TURNING THE CORNER’

Lee said he’s also looking outside of Apex to diversify North Las Vegas’ economy with manufacturing and distribution centers. The mayor said he has a lofty goal of securing 100 million square feet for new commercial and industrial projects across the city within 15 months.

Without securing a tenant, developer VanTrust Real Estate heeded that call by building a pair of warehouses totaling 800,000 square feet just southwest of the Interstate 15 and 215 Beltway.

During construction, a broker was hired to find a company willing to move into the space, said Keith Earnest, executive vice-president of VanTrust.

“We had no idea who would move in, or when we would find someone, but we kept building,” Earnest said.

Fanatics Inc., a Fortune 500 company known for manufacturing licensed sports merchandise, announced in June that it would open a distribution center that would take up half of VanTrust’s warehouse space.

Fanatics will move in next summer, spending about $8 million in capital equipment investments at the site and creating 189 jobs during the first year. In turn, Fanatics will receive $813,790 in tax incentives.

Negotiations are being finalized to bring two other Fortune 500 companies to North Las Vegas, city officials said.

“States are competing with each other to attract firms they believe will be good for the local economy,” said Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Lee Business School’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

“The game is to try to lure them by offering attractive packages and incentives,” Miller said. “It’s certainly good for employment.”

Despite the progress, Lee acknowledged that North Las Vegas still has a long way to go.

Apex has generated few jobs outside of construction. And even though he plans to seek a second term next year, Lee said his successor will likely reap the benefits from the groundwork he’s laying for the city.

“We’re slowly turning the corner, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Lee said. “Eventually, we’ll see the progress.”

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Find @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
More companies handing over tech for China access, report says

The number of foreign companies that feel compelled to hand over technology in exchange for Chinese market access — an issue that sparked President Trump’s tariff fight — has doubled since two years ago, says a report.

Lucky Dragon’s foreign investors demand refund

The Lucky Dragon’s developers and prior management are facing lawsuits from Chinese investors, the project’s main lender and a Canadian high-roller who paid a $400,000 deposit to lease the casino just one month before it abruptly closed.