Manufacturing growing again in Las Vegas economy

Ralph Knight took no small risk after the recession when he bought a business over a thousand miles away.

He moved his family from Seattle to the Las Vegas Valley, and jumped into a new career. The former custom homebuilder had high expectations for Power Pallets, a North Las Vegas manufacturer of portable wooden platforms used to move, stack and store goods.

“If this didn’t work out, I’d be starving,” he said.

Since Knight bought the company in 2011, Power Pallets has gone from $1.2 million in sales to $4.5 million last year, he said. It’s grown from about 15 employees to 35, adding a second shift.

Knight’s purchase of a manufacturing business appears to be paying off, and according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, certain sectors within manufacturing have shown recent employment growth nationwide.

A mixed bag

Knight’s experience is unusual in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

Steve Miller, a UNLV professor and director of its Center for Business and Economic Research, said bureau data show that employment for making wood products, such as pallets, and furniture declined the most among local manufacturing sectors.

Wood made up 3.25 percent of total manufacturing employment in the valley and declined in employment by 62.6 percent from 2001 to 2015, Miller said. Furniture made up 6.23 percent of total manufacturing employment and declined 45.6 percent in that same period.

The manufacturing segments that saw the fastest growth valleywide were food making and miscellaneous manufacturing, Miller said. Miscellaneous manufacturing includes items from tennis balls to dolls to jewelry to medical products.

Food averaged 12.3 percent of total manufacturing employment from 2001 to 2015. Miscellaneous manufacturing accounted for 21.3 percent of the valley’s total during that same period.

Manufacturing remains a small share of the careers people hold in the valley. In 2015, manufacturing accounted for 2.4 percent of the total employment in the valley, Miller said.

Manufacturing has increased every year since 2010, growing 15 percent to 43,600 jobs in 2016, according to data from the Nevada Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Department.

The valley has more manufacturing jobs than in 2002, but fewer than the number reported in 2003.

Fluctuating numbers

A downturn in total manufacturing started after 2006, when the valley peaked with 50,400 manufacturing jobs, about five times as many jobs in the valley in 1990, according to state numbers.

From 2005 to 2006, the valley saw its largest year-over-year gain in manufacturing jobs with 2,100 jobs added.

From 2008 to 2009, the valley saw its largest drop in manufacturing jobs with 4,300 jobs lost.

Manufacturing followed other sectors’ performances before and during the most recent recession, said Brian Gordon, a principal with research firm Applied Analysis.

The manufacturing of nondurable goods, such as food and medicine, has recovered faster than durable goods, such as refrigerators and cars, in the valley.

Nondurable goods hit an employment peak in 2016 at 9,500 jobs in the valley. Durable goods posted 12,600 jobs in the valley in that year, but that number is still less than in 2009, the end of the recession.

The growth in nondurable, or soft, goods likely comes from more consumer spending in retail. But efforts to draw large-scale manufacturers into Nevada, such as Faraday Future and Hyperloop One near North Las Vegas, have the potential to change the state’s economy, Gordon said.

Plus, the valley is home to a group of gaming and resort manufacturers, such as Konami and Ainsworth, positioned for growth as gaming enters new regions worldwide.

“While Las Vegas will not become — nor do we want it to be — a manufacturing-centric community like Detroit an increased presence is warranted and important to the long-run diversification of the economy,” he said.

Knight credits Power Pallets’ growth with the recovery in housing in Southern Nevada.

In wooden pallet manufacturing, margins are low and competition is high, Knight said. He mostly competes with companies outside the state that are trying to capitalize on a higher need for shipping as Nevada’s overall economy grows.

“I think we’re an excellent indicator for what’s happening in the rest of the economy,” he said.

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like