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Sustainability key to Southern Nevada’s growth, speakers say

Southern Nevada’s economy saw a major rebound following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But economic leaders are calling on the region’s business community to avoid complacency and keep growth going, especially as concerns of a recession loom.

The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance pushed for “sustainable economic development” in the areas of land, water and workforce, during the group’s 42nd annual Perspective event on Thursday.

The region should use those sustainable goals to push through what might be an incoming economic downturn, Brian Gordon, principal analyst at Applied Analysis, said during his presentation. He pointed to a survey of economists several months ago that found only 28 percent predicted a “hard landing” for the economy — that number is now at 80 percent.

“Things are moving very quickly,” Gordon said. “Things are changing rapidly, and I think that’s why we’re all feeling a little bit of this economic uncertainty.”

LVGEA CEO Tina Quigley said even though there are wide-ranging challenges, opportunities still exist. The region’s response to the federally declared water shortage at Lake Mead, the shrinking amount of available industrial land and need for education reform could be a chance for the area to reshape and diversify its economy.

“It’s almost exciting,” Quigley said. “We have the opportunity to put ourselves on the map for something besides gaming.”

Cindy Wallis-Lage, executive director at engineering firm Black & Veatch, and DeRionne Pollard, president of Nevada State College, also presented at the event.

Pollard, who joined Nevada State College in August 2021, challenged the audience to view talent retention and acquisition as part of a larger economic ecosystem that mingles with education.

“A lot of folks say, ‘Which is first the chicken or the egg? Do you improve the business and build a talent and you build a talent and then recruit the business?’ Can I offer y’all a different reality? You can do both at the same time,” Pollard said.

Wallis-Lage, who lead Black & Veatch’s water business, similarly called on Southern Nevada business leaders to consider water conservation as a topic in need of a mindset shift. Water is crucial to business and population growth. A drying climate could stymie progress in other areas, she said, which means that things that used to work won’t in the future.

“The greatest danger we have right now is when we think about what else we need to do, we think about how we got here and not where we need to go,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re not acting with yesterday’s logic.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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