WASHINGTON — A three-day lobbying visit this week enabled business and civic officials from Henderson to deliver a message to lawmakers and bureaucrats that there is more to Southern Nevada than just Las Vegas.
"The Strip is there, and it’s obviously an important part of our economy, but there’s a community there," said Daniel "DJ" Allen, president of Imagine, a marketing firm, and a Henderson Chamber of Commerce board member.
The extended "Henderson on the Hill" event, which drew 35 pilgrims from the state’s second-largest city, was a first-of-its-kind gathering for Nevada business officials, said Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.
"What happens in Washington impacts every business in Nevada, small or large," said Porter, who organized the event.
High-ranking congressional leaders and federal decision-makers met with the visitors.
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and minority leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ind., spoke. Other speakers included Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, acting Bureau of Land Management director Jim Hughes, and Paul Golan, the deputy director of the Yucca Mountain Project.
Education and national security dominated discussions as Henderson leaders expressed worry about the valley’s teacher shortage and anti-terror funding. There was no discussion of specific earmarks or other projects for the city.
"We deal a lot with the state Legislature; we really haven’t been that connected to the federal level," said John Holman, an economic development official with Southwest Gas.
Holman said that the last time he was in Washington, he was 18. He’s now 59.
"This is like Carson City on steroids," Allen said.
Since 1990, Henderson has transformed from a manufacturing-based community into a sprawling suburb, growing from 65,000 to more than 260,000 people.
City Councilman Steve Kirk said he hopes the meetings involving lawmakers and chamber and council members become an annual event.
"There are just a lot of issues that we need some exposure and introduction to," he said.
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., who serves as co-chairman of the Travel and Tourism caucus with Porter, said the federal, state and local governments need to communicate more.
"State legislatures don’t talk to cities, and nobody talks to Congress," he said.