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How economic development leaders use Super Bowl to recruit companies

Updated February 8, 2024 - 1:29 pm

When the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers kick off Super Bowl 58 on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, 16 of the fans in the seats will be top executives from companies that local economic development leaders invited in a bid to persuade them to move their companies to Southern Nevada.

LOCATE Las Vegas — a new initiative developed by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance — is designed to convince corporate leaders to commit to relocating their businesses from other states and countries to Southern Nevada.

The bid to recruit C-suite executives isn’t just about giving away one of the most sought-after tickets to a sporting event. It includes three days of meetings, tours and face-to-face sessions with government leaders and representatives of the business community who already have found what they’re looking for in the vibrant Southern Nevada business setting.

Super Bowl 58 is just the first high-profile event the LVGEA will use to lure executives who eventually may make life-changing decisions about moving their employees and their families to the Las Vegas Valley from wherever they’ve called home.

“This is the first time that we’re really leveraging a major event for the purpose of inviting CEOs or C-suite-level people out here,” said Tina Quigley, president and CEO of the LVGEA, a public-private partnership with 120 investors and a board of 60 whose mission is to grow and strengthen the economy of the Las Vegas region through intentional business attraction, expansion and connectivity.

Now that Las Vegas has established itself as the “sports and entertainment capital of the world,” the LVGEA board can organize recruitment events centered around a game ticket.

LOCATE is an acronym for Local Opportunity Coalition Advancing Transformative Economic Development, but Quigley joked at a recent public event that LOCATED sounded too presumptuous. She said Applied Analysis principal Jeremy Aguero came up with the name.

Introduced at Preview

Quigley and a panel of economic development supporters first introduced LOCATE during a panel at last month’s Preview Las Vegas 2024, the Vegas Chamber’s largest annual networking event, attended by 1,500 people at Fontainebleau.

“The goal of this whole thing is to make sure, using the Super Bowl as an anchor, to get CEOs or executive level people here who otherwise would not come to spend three days with us,” said Quigley, one of the Preview panelists.

“We immerse them in an experience in networking with our communities, getting them to learn truly what the business environment is like here. What outdoor pursuits are like here. What it is to raise your family here. How easy it is to connect.”

Quigley credited Sam Joffray, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee, with coming up with the idea of using the Super Bowl to recruit business to the city.

Joffray, during the panel, said using the Super Bowl – and other future sporting events – as a recruitment tool was a no-brainer.

Educating recruits

Quigley said part of LOCATE’s mission is to educate recruits that Southern Nevada is more than just the tourism landmarks of the Strip and downtown.

“People are often surprised to learn once you step right into a very typical desert Southwest city where we have communities, we have schools, we have churches, we have neighborhoods, we have outdoor pursuits, we have a really friendly business climate and tax environment compared to some of our other states,” Quigley said.

“We have a permitting and regulatory environment that is a lot easier to do business in. We have an airport with flights that fly directly to more cities than any other population of our size would have. We should not have an airport that services and covers the world as much as it does, but we do, and that is an asset for doing business.”

Access to government leaders is also a Nevada advantage that can’t be duplicated by rival states. Gov. Joe Lombardo was scheduled to meet with business recruits during Super Bowl week. So were the top leaders from the four government entities that partnered to form LOCATE – Clark County and the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson.

The “private” side of the public-private partnership consists of a diverse array of companies. They include the Howard Hughes Corp., Caesars Entertainment Inc., Budget Suites of America, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Cox Communications, Allegiant Travel Co., Republic Services and Wynn Resorts Ltd.

‘Game-changer’

“It is a game-changer when key stakeholders and community members come together to effect change and propel forward initiatives in pursuit of economic diversification,” said Alex Hancock, senior vice president of national sales and leasing for Howard Hughes. “A growing presence of technology and other emerging industries are transforming the perception of Las Vegas, driving the simultaneous evolution of America’s STEM workforce in Southern Nevada — from science, technology, engineering. and math to sports, technology, entertainment and media — disciplines that are exhibiting exciting momentum as they diversify the region’s economy.”

Funding comes from both the public and private sector, but no taxpayer dollars are used to buy game tickets. That’s the responsibility of the private sector.

Quigley also said recruited companies are intensely vetted to make sure a company is sincere in its desire and ability to relocate and not just along for a Super Bowl junket trip.

What are the 16 companies whose reps are going to the game? That’s confidential. Quigley explained that company names are kept quiet to avoid the potential upheaval from employees who may not know their bosses are considering relocating.

The vetting process also determines whether a company executive is fleeing court action for a criminal case.

But a company that recently made the move to Las Vegas from San Francisco in June is an example of how economic development recruitment can work.

Skillz relocated

Skillz Inc. operates a mobile game platform in the United States and internationally. Founded in 2012, it develops and supports a proprietary online-hosted technology platform that enables independent game developers to host tournaments and provide competitive gaming activity to end-users. The company distributes games through direct app download from its website, as well as through third-party platforms.

Skillz CEO Andrew Paradise said the company formally relocated to Las Vegas in June, but officially moved into its new headquarters last month.

“We currently have about 100 employees in the Vegas headquarters,” Paradise said in an email. “Skillz still has satellite offices outside of Vegas and approximately 200 employees in total. Our goal is to expand the headquarters headcount eventually to around 200-250 employees.”

Paradise said the decision to move enables Skillz to further its company business goals. He cited Las Vegas being the “epicenter for entertainment” and noted employees are enjoying cost-of-living advantages and are still relatively close to the West Coast. He said being located in Las Vegas gives the company a recruitment advantage for new employees.

“In comparison to California, Vegas offers significant financial savings for companies like us, enabling us to cut operational costs and we look to grow,” he said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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