The demographics of Southern Nevada are growing increasingly young, diverse and wealthy.
“People follow the businesses, and the businesses follow the people,” said John Lettieri, co-founder and policy director at the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Mia Gantt followed the the business. Gantt, a 26-year old African-American woman, moved to Las Vegas from Cleveland last August looking for job opportunities with better pay and to get away from the snow.
And Eric Rodriguez, 31, followed both. Rodriguez, a Latino, came to Las Vegas from Long Beach, California, in Feburary 2015 seeking a less competitive job market. Rodriguez joined World Financial Group in December of that year as a financial consultant and began his own insurance brokerage under the World Financial Group umbrella. So far Rodriguez has one employee with a goal of building a brokerage “as big as I possibly can.”
It’s a virtuous cycle that all states want, but only two states really have, Lettieri said: Nevada, followed by Utah.
The Innovation Group recently ranked the “dynamism” of each state, a metric showing how well-poised economies are to confront challenges and adapt to change. Nevada leads the country, showing a high rate of new business creation, a steady influx of human capital and a flexible labor market.
Immigrants mean business
“There are a couple of characteristics that make Nevada do really well,” said Steve Glickman, co-founder and executive director of the Innovation Group.
One is that Nevada has a hefty foreign-born immigrant population of 19.4 percent, ranking fifth among all states and Washington, D.C., and outscoring the nation by 6.1 percentage points.
“Immigration is highly correlated with entrepreneurship,” Glickman said, adding that foreign-born immigrants are about twice as likely to start a new company than native-born Americans.
These statistics bode well for Las Vegas’ workforce, said Jonas Peterson, CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, a private organization that works directly with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development as the clearinghouse for economic development in Southern Nevada.
Las Vegas has one of the most diverse workforce pools in the country, Peterson said.
While minorities constitute 37.7 percent of the total U.S. population nationwide, the combined minority population in Las Vegas is 54.2 percent, according to alliance data.
“This may be our single greatest workforce strength,” Peterson said of these figures in March. “Our workforce can speak the language of global companies that need customers on a 24/7 basis.”
The other characteristic that makes Nevada stand out is its rate of new businesses.
“Nevada increased its number of local businesses by 79 percent over the course of the study (1992 to 2014),” Lettieri said. “That’s just an astronomically high growth rate.”
And those businesses have become more diverse as the economy continues to branch out from gaming and tourism.
“The diversification of the types of companies in Las Vegas has created a larger workforce pool,” said Jason Bruckman, vice president of workforce recruitment in Las Vegas for national staffing company Eastridge Workforce Solutions. He has seen this data play out in the past five years, recuriting more engineers and information technology professionals into the market.
“I’ve seen the demographic trend skew to a younger workforce, and I think that will continue as we continue to further diversify.”
Lettieri described Las Vegas as a place where it’s easier to move from job to job, where it’s easier to start up companies, where there is “new and exciting things happening, and new development happening,” making Nevada successful in attracting younger and more mobile workers and their families.
Jobs, jobs — and quality of life
Jeremy Aguero, a principal at Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, said job opportunities is the “primary motivation” for somebody relocating, and “we’re creating a large number of jobs. More so than any other place in the United States, and the outlook is for more of those jobs to be brought online.”
Quality of life is also a big draw for employee transplants.
Survey data from the alliance shows incoming workers in 2016 ranked the quality of life in Southern Nevada higher than in Southern California, Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
“A significant number of people will seek out where cost of living is lower,” Aguero said, citing utilities, housing costs and taxes. “That’s true of anyone that’s migrating.”
Nevada has a good “quality of life story,” Lettieri said, citing features such as access to the outdoors, natural resources, national parks and urban centers where young people want to live and work in.
“These are all factors that play into being able to attract the kind of demographics that boost the state’s dynamism,” Lettieri said.
Nevada remained the most dynamic state over the course of the study, including during the recession despite being one of its largest victims.
“It goes to show this momentum really carries forward and how much these basic ingredients can overcome other short term challenges, like a recession,” Lettieri said.
Only time will tell if Southern Nevada’s new out-of-state hires decide to stay here long term, which has a strong relationship with the quality of private and public amenities.
Gantt said she will probably stay in Las Vegas “for a couple of years” and then plans to move again, mostly to satiate her desire to move every few years stemming from growing up in a military family. However, Gantt said she she wouldn’t necessarily want to settle down in Las Vegas partly because of the quality of Nevada’s education and health care systems.
Rodriguez said he plans to stay in Las Vegas for at least the next 10 years but isn’t sure how the quality of Nevada’s education system and health care system will affect his decision if and when he has children.
Gantt and Rodriguez are not unique, but overall Nevada is retaining more and more of its residents.
The number of Nevada-born residents is up over 55 percent since 2005, according to data from the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, and Peterson said the number will only increase as the education and health care systems improve.
The 2017 Kids Count Data Book recently ranked Nevada 49th in the nation when it comes to education. Officials with the state Department of Education say measures passed in the 2017 legislative session will help propel the state higher on the list in the future.
Peterson said that while Nevada’s education system isn’t where it should be, high school graduation rates increased 11.4 percentage points in the past 10 years, from 63.5 percent in 2006 to 74.9 percent in 2016.
Also, 23 of Nevada’s Magnet Schools were awarded the highest national merit awards in 2016 by Magnet Schools of America.
Meanwhile, UNLV is gearing up for its first class of medical students.
Contact Nicole Raz at email@example.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.