weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Las Vegas business leaders make pitch for I-11 funds, other projects

Updated September 15, 2020 - 12:07 pm

WASHINGTON — With Congress and the administration squabbling about spending, Las Vegas business leaders on Monday began a lobbying push to spur infrastructure projects, like the Interstate 11 thoroughfare to Phoenix, and other critical measures to lift the city out of the pandemic.

“It’s critical to diversifying our economy,” Mary Beth Sewald, president and chief executive officer of the Vegas Chamber, said of the I-11 project to complete a section of the interstate to the Arizona border.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and President Donald Trump, have hailed construction projects as a way to jump-start an economy crippled by the coronavirus pandemic nationwide.

But talks have broken down and stalled as lawmakers eye an election less than two months away.

In Nevada, unemployment remains at 14 percent, down from 30 percent in April. Still, a staggering amount of people remain out of work, and many blue-collar workers support families vulnerable to eviction from rental housing units, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Completion of the I-11 project from Las Vegas to the Arizona border would create jobs and help improve the proposed highway that would eventually run from Nogales, Mexico, to Reno, bringing goods and tourists to Nevada destinations.

In addition to creating jobs, the project would “add billions to our economy” by bolstering trade and manufacturing, Sewald said.

The Vegas Chamber will hold virtual lobbying sessions with Trump administration officials, experts and lawmakers over the next four days. About 100 business and community leaders have signed up for the “virtual trip.”

“We’re bringing DC to LV,” Sewald said.

The annual physical lobbying trip to the nation’s capital was scrapped this year due to the coronavirus. Instead, meetings will be conducted via technology with participants using laptops and desktop computers.

Las Vegas business leaders are carefully watching Congress as it cobbles together the next coronavirus relief package.

Business leaders from Southern Nevada would like to see more relief for hospitals and health care facilities in any bill that emerges from the House and Senate, which are in negotiations with the Trump administration.

Still, little progress has been made. And no bill has emerged from the Senate to reconcile with the House bill.

The state Legislature added limited liability insurance for businesses who aim to protect employees returning to jobs amid the pandemic. Sewald said she would like to see the federal government expand on what the state has done, adding hospitals and medical facilities to businesses covered.

In addition to legislative and regulatory discussions, the Las Vegas group has invited former Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to speak about her experiences running for the White House.

Also speaking to the chamber is pollster Frank Luntz.

Nevada held the third Democratic presidential contest this year, following Iowa and New Hampshire.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.