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Las Vegas economic development official Ryan Smith dead at 36

Updated March 20, 2024 - 3:29 pm

One of the top economic development officials for the city of Las Vegas died on Sunday. He was 36.

The city announced the passing of Ryan Smith, director of urban and economic development for Las Vegas, on Wednesday. Smith worked for the city since 2018 and became the director of its economic and urban development agency in 2021.

Before joining the city, Smith — an alumnus of Michigan State University — worked for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development as the director of business planning and analysis. He also previously worked with Station Casinos and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., according to his LinkedIn profile.

Smith worked for the city of Las Vegas during a key development period as the city navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery, which focused on diversifying the city’s economy.

Smith “helped oversee some of the significant redevelopment we have experienced downtown, in the Arts District, on the Historic Westside and elsewhere in the city,” the city of Las Vegas said in a statement. “He is greatly missed by members of our city employee family and by those in the community he worked with.”

GOED praised Smith for his work with the office since he started working there in 2015 shortly after the Tesla Gigafactory project was introduced to Nevada and helped oversee a strong period of economic growth.

“(Smith) has dedicated his professional career to Nevada’s economy and has been a passionate champion for entrepreneurial ecosystem development,” GOED said in an emailed statement. “The economic development and startup community has lost an ardent advocate, true public servant and friend.”

Similar sentiments on Smith’s legacy were echoed by tech and startup community leaders in Southern Nevada.

“During Smith’s tenure as the leader of EUD, the startup community and the related venture investments have more than tripled by any objective measure — and the spirit of excitement and progress in our community has grown even more,” Jeff Saling, executive director of the tech incubator StartUpNV, said in an emailed statement. “He will be sorely missed for his vision and the results he delivered, and will be missed even more for his personal energy, his kindness, and his love for Las Vegas — and the startup community.”

Tech incubator StartUp Vegas co-founders Heather Brown and Piotr Tomasik in an emailed statement said: “We can never replace (Smith), but we can honor his vision and unwavering passion by building upon the foundation he laid.”

Dina Babsky, deputy director of Las Vegas’ economic and urban development agency, is taking on Smith’s role on an acting basis, according to the city.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on X.

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