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UNLV’s School of Dental Medicine offers clinical experience

A recent American Dental Education Association study showed the average dental school student graduates with more than $247,000 in student debt. That figure has risen by nearly 40 percent since 2010.

Part of the reason for the dental student’s high debt is that she must complete a four-year science degree before entering the four-year dental program. The student must also purchase several thousands dollars worth of special training aids, equipment and books.

With the cost of dental school so high, students are taking a very close look at which school they want to attend. And, the competition for acceptance is fierce. UNLV’s School of Dental Medicine has more than 1,000 applicants that compete for one of the 75 to 80 student positions that are available each year, according to Dr. Philip Devore, DDS, the school’s associate professor.

Kristine San Diego, who came to UNLV from her home in Hawaii, is a third-year student at the School of Dental Medicine.

“I chose UNLV because of the early hands-on clinical experience that UNLV offers.”

In addition, after her first year at UNLV, San Diego was able to claim residency and lower her tuition from $89,987 to $54,677 per year, according to the school’s tuition website, www.unlv.edu/dental/tuition. UNLV’s Dental School tuitions are about 9.5 percent less than the average for all dental schools, according to StartClass.com, a website that tracks U.S. professional schools.

At UNLV, students begin working in the clinic environment during their second year, and by their third year are performing most of the technical procedures. Devore said most dental schools have students entering the clinic stage of their education in the later part of their third year or into their fourth year. In addition, UNLV does not break its program down into specialties, so the students gain experience on a wider variety of procedures.

This year, StartClass.com ranked UNLV School of Dental Medicine 48 out of the top 65 university schools, not including private schools. UNLV School of Dental Medicine is one of the newest on the list, having graduated its first class in 2006.

In December, the school will receive its latest piece of equipment — an inter oral scanner, which is priced at nearly $12,000. This is a sophisticated optical scanner that takes digital images and converts them to a CAD file that is read by different types of machines. One of the uses will be in conjunction with a milling machine that can build a customized crown for a patient’s tooth. Another future use will be to connect the scanner to a 3-D printer that could build dental bridges and false teeth.

Devore moved from California, where he had a 17-year dental practice, to Las Vegas in 1997. He started a local private practice in 2002. He said he is well aware of the advancements made in modern dentistry. “I’m not doing the same thing that I did 35 years ago when I graduated from dental school; it’s not the same. I have to stay current with all of the literature, materials, and methods that we have today.”

The school, at 1700 W. Charleston Blvd. in the UMC medical corridor, has 165 dental treatment rooms along with emergency care, oral pathology, and oral surgery units. The clinic is open to the public and hosts more than 60,000 patient visits each year through its academic, community outreach and Faculty Dental Practice clinic, according to Kevin Dunegan, director of communications for the UNLV School of Dental Medicine, the university’s School of Allied Health Services and its School of Nursing.

One of the unique things about the UNLV School of Dental Medicine is that because of the clinic program, the school is more than 85 percent self-sufficient based upon the fees paid by the patients and their insurance, according to Devore. The school charges a flat fee for services, which are not income-qualified.

According to Devore, the clinic is equipped to accept absolutely everybody that enters the doors, regardless of the severity of their dental problems.

“If a patient is not suitable for a student due to the complexity of their dental needs — too many crowns or bridges or a complex medical issue — they are referred to the General Practice Residency Program,” he said.

In this program, graduate dentists come for additional training in general dentistry, orthodontics or pediatrics.

“If a case is extremely complicated, the patient is referred to the faculty practice, which encompasses all of the dental specialties.”

The school has an operating room on campus and staff privileges at University Medical Center Hospital.

“What I really enjoy about practicing in this environment is that it allows me to offer what I think is the very best to our patients, both in the faculty practice and in the student clinic with the students,” Devore said.

Because the School of Dental Medicine does not have an overhead that a private practice does, it is allowed to practice what Devore called “ideal dentistry.” As such, the staff and students make recommendations to the patients that they consider to be ideal, then depending on the patient’s needs and desires they will tailor the treatment.

When patients go to the clinic, they are put through a battery of preliminary examinations during the record-taking process before any work is performed. As a result, a complete mold of their teeth along with x-rays and photographs are available for the students to look at and analyze with their instructors. Based on their analysis, along with the instructor’s examination, a course of treatment is decided and proposed to the patient.

“You can train most anyone to do the technical side,” Devore said. “However, it is the critical-thinking skills that are crucial to becoming an effective dental practitioner, and that is what we try to teach.”

“We try to give evidence-based criteria to all of our clinical decision makings. We don’t do stuff just because we think it is a good idea. We recommend treatment based on the literature, the curriculum that we have and evidence-based standards that are well-documented,” Devore said.

In addition to the technical and critical thinking, the dental school also has a unique two-semester practice administration course, which all students must pass in order to graduate. The course was developed by Devore in 2005 and is based on his prior years of experience as a consultant to dental practices around the world. In this course, Devore teaches the students how to manage an office, marketing, patient management and how to communicate with patients by explaining their dental needs and the procedures in layman terms.

“Creating value and urgency so that a patient does not put off something that in the future can cause bigger problems both medically and financially is the goal,” Devore said.

San Diego, whose mother is a dentist with a successful practice in Hawaii, worked with her mother on the administrative side before entering dental school.

“After graduation, I would like to work with some other dentists to see how they do things before going back to Hawaii and working with my mother,” she said.

Like San Diego, many of the graduating dentists are weighing their work options. Devore said the average income for a dentist just starting out is about $120,000 a year. The school debt might cause a graduate to take a job with a large dental corporation and a guaranteed salary rather than open an independent practice and incurring the risk associated with entrepreneurship. Regardless of their choice, finding employment should not be a problem. Currently, there is a shortage of 7,300 dentists in the United States, according to the American Dental Association.

Part of the dentist shortage can be solved by importing dentists from other countries. UNLV has a proposal to the Board of Regents to begin offering a foreign dentist curriculum where an accredited dentist from a foreign country can study for two years and graduate with a degree that will enable them to practice in the U.S.


U.S. travel industry stagnate but going in the right direction

About 80 marketing executives, many from the major Las Vegas casinos, met Sept. 29 to consider potential growth for and obstacles to the city’s ability to draw international tourism.

“The U.S. travel industry generates $2.1 trillion in economic output and supports 15 million jobs. Tourism is Southern Nevada’s No. 1 industry, supporting 368,900 jobs (41.4 percent of the workforce) and generating $51.8 billion in aggregate economic output.”

That was the opening statement of Roger Dow during a breakfast presentation to the Las Vegas chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Dow is the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, an organization that represents all segments of travel in America.

“I keep saying that hospitality, lodging and the travel industry is the front door to economic development. No one ever decided to buy a second home or condo here (Las Vegas) until they first came here for a meeting, event or a vacation. Then they realize wow, pretty cool, lots to do, great restaurants, all these things,” Dow said.

In his talk, Dow outlined how international travel has improved for the hospitality industry and listed some hurdles to be overcome.

On the positive side was the improvement of visa wait times. In the past, the waiting period for a three-minute visa interview was 120 days. That has been shrunk to fewer than five days, and, as a result, the number of international visitors went from 53 million in 2009 to 77 million in 2015. That number is expected to climb to 100 million by 2021.

In addition to improving the visa wait times, the U.S. also expanded the number of countries enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program from 27 to 38. This program enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa when they meet all requirements.

One of the best examples is South Korea. When it was added to the Visa Waiver Program, visitation went up 46 percent in 18 months. An additional 400,000 South Koreans visited the U.S., making an average of 850,000 to 900,000 visitors each year.

One of the most important business and tourist countries in the world is China. In 2009, there were 500,000 Chinese visitors to the U.S. By 2015. that number was 2.2 million, and it is expected to grow to 5 or 6 million visitors each year. China is not one of the countries in the Visa Waiver Program, but the five-day visa processing program has helped to bring more tourists. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with China to allow for 10-year business visas. This means that a Chinese businessman that comes to Las Vegas each year for the CES only needs to apply for a visa every 10 years, making it easier for China to do business in the U.S.

Recently, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recognized how important the Chinese visitors will be to the lcoal economy and launched a campaign asking local businesses if they are “China ready.” The program talks about the need for improved signage, menus and guest relations personnel that speak Chinese languages.

Challenges that the travel industry faces include:

■ Infrastructure: This must grow to be able to move people throughout destinations. “The problem is the government keeps ‘kicking the can down the road,’ which stifles cities’ ability to grow and properly accommodate incoming travelers,” Dow said.

■ Ability to process people through airports: More travelers should utilize TSA precheck programs.

■ Customs and border protection: The U.S. needs to continue advancing technology including automated passport control and facial recognition.

■ Airplane capacity: In 2006, 11 airlines controlled 85 percent of air traffic in America. Now, there are four legacy carriers: Delta, American, United, and Southwest. “I want them to grow, but we can’t have four airlines controlling our destiny,” Dow said.

■ Improve load factors: Legacy carriers are projecting only 2 percent growth, yet international visitation is predicted to grow by 4 to 6 percent per year. The numbers don’t match, and carriers will stifle visitor growth.

■ Pandemics: The government and the media need to do a better job of identifying the exact areas affected by an epidemic and not make it sound like an entire state, region or country is affected.

The good news for the hotel industry is that, nationwide and in Las Vegas, the number of visitor days has not declined, but the amount of money spent during those stays has. Dow notes that “people are spending less on a hotel room. Instead of purchasing two Gucci bags, they are buying one. Instead of going to a 4-star restaurant, they are going 3-star.”

While nationwide the travel industry is flat, only growing at about 2 to 3 percent at this time, projections are for improved growth.

While business travel is very important to the economy, two-thirds of the travel and hospitality industry is for leisure activity.

One of the main reasons for the stagnated growth is the fact that Americans are not taking vacations. Americans have become what Dow calls “a nation of work martyrs.” In 2000, Americans took 23 days of vacation time. In 2015, that figure dropped to 16.2 days. Millennials, according to Dow, are the “worst offenders.” Because of the challenging work market, “they’re terrified of losing their jobs and want to look good.”

Furthermore, the USTA surveyed children, ages 6 and 7:

■ 75 percent say their parents never disconnect from the office when they come home.

■ 61 percent say the best time they spend with their parents is when they’re on vacation.

■ The surveyed children said, at least three days per week, their parents promised they would be home but were not.

To encourage Americans to take more leisure time, the travel and hospitality industries have teamed up to build a campaign called “Project Time Off,” producing a series of public service announcements touting the social and health benefits, physical and mental, of leisure activities.

MasterCard has committed $80 million to its television campaign where children ask their parents to take a vacation.


Cyberattack can’t spoil Kangamoo’s debut

 

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The Wachters–Shawn, Mimi, and daughter MaiLee –and mascot Kangamoo all got through a tough opening day at their playland marred by a cyber attack. Photo by Craig A. Ruark/Special to the Las Vegas Business Press

 

With apologies to Dickens, this is a tale of two Las Vegas couples, starting their own separate small businesses, and of childhood innocence combined with cybertheft.

Entrepreneurs Shawn and Mimi Wachter recently opened Kangamoo, a 10,000-square-foot indoor playground that has become an instant success. But this is not just an ordinary children’s playground; it is also a place where parents can relax and play and, since this is the information age, do business using Kangamoo’s free WiFi.

For the Wachter’s, Kangamoo is the result of part inspiration, part aspiration, and much perspiration. But, as it turns out, it is partly the result of luck as well.

The opening day of Kangamoo, while filled with excitement, could have been their closing day if the Wachter’s daughter had not gone to the same daycare as Troy and Shannon Wilkinson’s daughter.

The Wilkinson’s had just opened Axiom Cyber Solutions, and the Wachters had contracted with Axiom to guard Kangamoo’s computer system against hackers.

The Wilkinson’s, seeing a great place for their daughter to play, had signed up as members of Kangamoo, filling out a form that gave their names, address, daughter’s birthday and other information such as credit card account, to be stored in the Kangamoo computer system.

Come opening day, while children were frolicking at Kangamoo, hackers were busy trying to gain access to the Kangamoo computer system. However, the Axiom-installed fire wall held and all of the information remained safe and secure.

“We’re a small, independent indoor playground—we didn’t expect to face an attempted data breach ever, let alone just hours after opening our doors to the public,” said Mimi Wachter. “You hear about this kind of thing happening to large corporations with millions of customers; it was really off our radar that a tiny, new business like ours would be targeted.”

A series of coincidences are responsible for this tale of fortunate events. Both the Wachter’s and the Wilkinson’s met through their work, both couples married in 2010, had daughters that attended the same daycare, joined the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce around the same time, and both couples were opening new businesses in Las Vegas.

The story of Axiom can be found in the Jan. 18 edition of the Las Vegas Business Press (http://businesspress.vegas/technology/local-firm-takes-online-demons).

The Wachter’s met while working in Los Angeles for Gensler Architecture, one of the world’s largest architecture firms. Shawn, a designer, and Mimi, a project manager, were both on the ladder to success when in 2007, at age 33, Shawn was hit with cancer. In 2008, the economy crashed and with Shawn on leave for chemotherapy treatments, Mimi was struggling to stay employed.

In 2010, the pair married and decided to move to Las Vegas where they could find more affordable housing. And in June of 2011, their daughter MaiLee was born.

Like all good parents, the Wachter’s took MaiLee to the zoo to see the animals, and it was an early visit that became the inspiration for their future endeavor. While at the zoo, MaiLee fell in love with what she called a “Kangamoo.” The Wachter’s were so inspired by MaiLee’s fascination and mispronunciation of this adorable animal that they filed for a trademark on the name.

Having survived cancer and the recession, the Wachters aspired to work for themselves and spend more time with their growing daughter. The idea for an indoor playground came out of necessity. Las Vegas is too hot in the summer, often very windy, and the winters are cold, at least compared to Southern California). The answer was a climate controlled year round facility, and Kangamoo Indoor Playground was born.

Although the Wachters were familiar with the process of designing and renovating commercial businesses, they were taken by surprise by the amount of work that it would take to design, permit, and build their own business. The planning took six months and for the next six months, the couple practically lived in the warehouse facility, electing to do all of the renovation work themselves.

Shawn’s 20-year background in retail allowed him to create a polished franchise brand look to the business.

Incorporated into their concept is an adult area with a bank of massage chairs, Wi-Fi, laptop and phone charging stations, a jogging track, do-it-yourself beauty stations, and work space that is free for the parents, who must remain in the building with their children.

Due to Clark County Health Department regulations, no outside food can be brought into the facility by parents or children. However, there is a health food bar stocked with water, juice drinks and healthy snacks such as fruit, yogurts, and vegetables.

Enabling the parents to relax is a staff of eight employees who monitor the playground to make sure each child is safe and having fun. After only a week of operation, the Wachters decided to hire an additional eight employees. Each employee undergoes a thorough background check, and there are instructions given for basic first aid.

The playground consists of a giant treehouse type maze of tunnels, rope crossings, ladders, and a giant slide. There is also a corner which is Mimi’s pride and joy, where children are given the opportunity to draw and color using old fashion Crayons or play with building blocks.

When the six-foot Kangamoo character walks into the play area, the children rush to its side and wrap their arms around the snuggly icon.

The playground is located at 1525 E. Sunset Road, Suite 7, with windows that overlook McCarran Airport so parents and children alike can watch the takeoff and landing of airplanes.

The facility is open to children ages 1-10 and the cost for three hours of play is $10. An annual membership for unlimited free play is $225. The facility is also available for private parties.


SBA names restaurateur state’s Small Business Person of Year

Even before Brad Burdsall graduated from the UNLV School of Hotel Administration in 1993, he knew that one day he would own a restaurant.

Fast forward 23 years and Burdsall owns not one restaurant, but a chain of six successful Egg Works and Egg &I Family Restaurants, a commercial kitchen and corporate headquarters. His company employs more than 300 employees.

“It was the perfect storm of a businessman with a passion for cooking,” Burdsall said of the success that this year earned him the federal Small Business Administration’s designation as Small Business Person of the Year in Nevada.

Not only did Burdsall pay attention in class, he kept learning and fine-tuning his business knowledge after receiving his college degree. While waiting tables at the Olive Garden and the Mirage coffee shop, Burdsall began developing his idea for the Egg Works brand. Later as a chef and manager at Macaroni Grill, he was working on a business plan for his own restaurant.

In 1998, with funds borrowed from his parents and uncle, Burdsall and his one-time partner purchased the Egg &I restaurant on West Sahara Avenue between Arville and Decatur.

By 2005, Burdsall was ready to expand. He took an SBA loan to purchase the land and build his third location on Rainbow and the 215 Beltway. “To me, from a business sense, using the real estate analogy, the SBA loan allowed me to move from being a renter to buying a home,” he said.

Burdsall said the key feature of an SBA loan is the borrower needing only a 10 percent down payment as opposed to a 30 percent with a conventional loan.

Ann Santiago of TMC Financing agrees. Santiago’s company is an SBA-certified development company that puts together SBA commercial real estate loans.

“If you have a $1 million loan and only need to put 10 percent down, then you can save $200,000 in cash for working capital that does not have to go into the ground,” Santiago said.

Burdsall feels most budding businesses go about small business loans the wrong way. Going to the bank before the SBA often ends in the loan being rejected, ending the process, he said. Burdsall suggests using TMC Financing or another SBA-certified company to become prequalified, then letting that company pitch the package to the banks.

Burdsall had been working with Eric Colvin at Meadows Bank for his business account, so it was only natural that Meadows also processed his SBA loan. “We are one of the few banks in Las Vegas that specializes in SBA financing,” Colvin said. “Because we are a community bank without a lot of branch locations, we don’t require that a business bank with us to process an SBA loan.”

Burdsall has four SBA loans that helped him expand his business to three restaurant locations and purchase a 20,000-square-foot building on the corner of Cameron and Hacienda, which serves as a warehouse, commercial kitchen and corporate headquarters.

On April 30, Burdsall joined winners from all 50 states and U.S. territories in Washington, D.C. for the announcement of SBA’s National Small Businessperson of the Year. The applicants are judged based on the history of the company, their business plans, analysis of growth, and how they have overcome adversity.

The Egg Works chain, known for its homemade banana nut muffins, produces 2,500 muffins a day at its commercial kitchen. Along with the enormous number of eggs they purchase and store in a 1,500-square-foot refrigerator, pallets full of bananas are also ripening to perfect sweetness. In addition, Egg Works makes bulk batches of chili, corned beef hash, and other products that are distributed to the individual restaurants. This mass production allows for a consistent taste as well as highly discounted purchasing power.

To make his restaurants stand out from the competition, Burdsall also has developed his own brand of hot sauce, called “Habla Diablo,” along with a Bloody Mary mix, Hollandaise sauce, and 17 different spice blends that fill the dry storage area with a strong aroma.

The beauty of the business is that the restaurants are open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. which “gives me time to spend with my family.” Burdsall has been married to wife Catherine for 17 years, and together they have a 15-year-old daughter, Olivia, who is active in theater as an actress and singer, and 12-year-old son, Tyler, who is a level eight gymnast.

In addition to cooking, Burdsall’s passion is the collection of pinball machines – he has more than 40 — and riding quad bikes in the mountains with his family.


SBA to recognize PrideStaff owner

Bob Daniel speaks casually and in a positive, upbeat fashion about what it takes to be successful. His rich baritone voice makes it clear he’s an authority.

As the owner and strategic partner of PrideStaff Las Vegas, Daniel shares his knowledge with every staffing applicant who walks through his door, mentoring them to make sure his clients receive quality, motivated, part- and full-time employees who will enhance their business.

It is this trademark of personalized quality and service that has earned Daniel the Small Business Administration’s award as Nevada Veteran-Owned Business of the Year.

He will be among more than a dozen to be honored Wednesday during an SBA luncheon at the Gold Coast.

Graduating high school during the Vietnam war era, Daniel realized that he didn’t have the grades or money for college, so he enlisted in the Air Force to learn a skill and perhaps take advantage of the GI Bill to continue his education. He parlayed skills he learned in a high school typing class to an assignment handling administrative duties. He was stationed in Texas, the Philippines, Vietnam, and then back to Texas during his four years of service.

Daniel spent the next 32 years in the private sector hiring, training and managing cross-functional teams. These teams consisted of sales, supply chain, marketing and Web development at IBM, Micron, and Fujifilm. He was a staff instructor at IBM’s Management Development Center.

In addition to working a full-time job, Daniel completed his education by first using the GI Bill to finance his associate’s degree in business management, and then continuing on his own to receive a bachelor’s degree in professional studies, and a master’s in business administration.

Despite all of the higher education studies, Daniel credits his time in the Air Force as his major learning experience and the foundation for his success in business. “It helped me and prepared me in a couple of ways. One is just being able to listen and communicate in terms of understanding the other person’s perspective without being judgmental. I also learned how to research and where to look to find the answers to questions.”

MOVING TO LAS VEGAS

In 2004, after years of success in the corporate world and as an empty nester living in New Jersey, Daniel and Mini, his wife of 47 years, decided to escape the cold winters and moved to Las Vegas.

“I liken Las Vegas to the new melting pot, a forward-thinking community with tremendous opportunities for individuals that are willing to work hard, play fair, but compete vigorously. There is also a Wild West kind of mentality where everything is fair game, and you just need to figure out how to get your share of it,” said Daniel.

Daniel purchased a PrideStaff franchise rather than reinvent the wheel, and in 2006, the couple opened the Las Vegas office.

He was nominated for ‘Nevada Veteran Owned Business of the Year’ award by Kenyatta Lewis, executive director of supplier diversity for MGM Resorts International.

Lewis complimented Daniel for his ethics and perseverance. “He patiently pursued a business relationship with us for five years before we worked together. The initial order was a small one — just a single limousine driver—but Bob treated that placement, and every one since, as his top priority.”

With a staff of just four full-time and two part-time administrative employees, PrideStaff Las Vegas has more than 100 employees working on assignment at client locations each week. The company provides both white- and blue-collar staff for hospitality, gaming, finance, manufacturing, distribution, construction, information technology, transportation utilities, architecture, government, and professional services.

However, Daniel said he is selective when it comes to the number and type of companies that he will take on as a client.

“I don’t want to be all things to all people. And I don’t want a large client count because it becomes unmanageable and I would end up alienating people. So I am very specific as to who we do business with, and I really want it to be a partnership,” said Daniel.

That fits with Lewis’ experience.

STRESSING THE VALUE OF HIS SERVICES

“Bob has never tried to ‘sell us staffing.’ He’s educated us about the strategic value of his services, developed innovative solutions to our business problems, and shown us how to use PrideStaff’s resources to thrive in any market conditions. PrideStaff is more than a vendor; they’re a partner in our success,” said Lewis.

As a minority- and veteran-owned business serving Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson, PrideStaff is one of Clark County’s leading employment and staffing agencies. The firm provides a full complement of administrative and light industrial temporary, temp-to-hire and direct placement solutions to help employers overcome their biggest workforce challenges while helping area job seekers find meaningful employment.

In addition to running a business, Daniel still finds time to give back to the community. He is actively involved with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, 100 Black Men of Las Vegas, Las Vegas Minority Supplier Development Council as well as the Southern Nevada Human Resources Association.


Corporate philanthropy grows, targets education

“Nevada’s path of recovery in the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable,” says Jeremy Aguero, principal of Applied Analysis and co-author of a report on Corporate Philanthropy in Nevada 2015.

In short, Nevada’s corporate generosity of 0.21 percent of total revenue, or $100.9 million, exceeds the national average of 0.13 percent.

That equates to roughly $441 per employee per year for the average Nevada company compared to a national average of $88 per employee.

The report, released on April 5, contains an intense 15 pages of facts and figures about Nevada’s corporate giving and how the state compares to others in the U.S.

Many of the details and statistics contained in the report were released earlier this year and reported in the Feb. 15 issue of the Las Vegas Business Press. The survey found 100 percent of the companies cited education as a key priority for Nevada’s corporate philanthropy.

The chief reason is that better education brings more economic diversity, one of the state’s priority needs.

One of the companies highlighted in the report, City National Bank, said it believes education is the key to economic diversity and focused its philanthropic efforts on “providing the best possible return on investments.” Seeing Nevada’s youth as future leaders, City National created the “Reading is the way up” program to develop childhood literacy.

Through the program, the company invests in school libraries, teacher grants for K-12 schools and community partnerships to enhance literacy. Employees of City National also receive up to three hours of paid time off per month to read to students.

The program has been responsible for donating 115,000 books, over $500,000 in grants and reaching more than 100,000 children in the areas that the bank serves.

Overall giving to Nevada’s educational programs grew to a total of 44 percent of all spending, a notable increase from 12 percent last year and well above the 13 percent national average. Recent events in Nevada have called attention to the vast amount of land in Nevada that is under environmental protection.

Barrick Gold, a major employer and mining company that makes its living from Nevada’s natural resources, also recognizes how important it is to protect the environment.

The company has teamed up with the Nature Conservancy to implement a conservation plan on 582,000 acres of the unique sage-grouse habitat. The goal of the joint venture is to measurably improve the habitat population over the next three years.

In Nevada, giving to environmental preservation reached 7 percent of the total, which again tops the national average of 4 percent.

Volunteerism is a critical part of corporate philanthropy programs. More than 71 percent of the companies surveyed offered a volunteer program, with just over 445,000 volunteer hours reported by employees in the past year, an average of 2.8 hours per employee. The report highlighted several companies that value their employee participation.

The Caesars Foundation has for more than a decade supported the Meals on Wheels program which provides regular meals, friendly visits, safety checks and other services. Caesars “HERO” volunteers ensure that no senior citizen is hungry or alone.

NV Energy also concentrates its philanthropic efforts on the large senior citizen community through the Senior Energy Assistance Expo that helps to manage energy bills.

During the expo, 130 employee volunteers help to find programs that manage energy and save money. In addition, they identify seniors who are eligible for “Project Reach” energy assistance. More than $344,000 in assistance has been given to 1,210 households.

While most companies surveyed agree that corporate philanthropy benefits the bottom line by projecting a positive company image, it must also serve a purpose within the community.

Giving without a plan or strategy to maximize benefits will lead to short-term, half-hearted campaigns that are ineffective for both the companies and the recipients.

The main beneficial motivations for corporate giving are:

■ Providing opportunities to engage with the company’s employees

■ Increasing customer loyalty

■ Protecting and enhancing the company’s reputation among consumers

■ Creating opportunities for business innovation or growth

The Corporate Philanthropy in Nevada 2015 report is a collaboration between the Moonridge Group, which serves as a catalyst between individuals, foundations and corporations, and the Nevada Corporate Giving Council.

A printed copy of the report is available by calling 702-570-7693 or sending an email toconnect@moonridgegroup.com.


‘Giant Gray’ tracks anomalies to spot danger

When it comes to fighting physical and cyber-type crimes, the recent International Security Conference &Exposition (ISC West), Las Vegas had more technology and knowledge concentrated in one location than any other place in the world.

And while there have been some minor improvements in security camera resolutions, cloud-based file storage and system connectivity, there were only a few novel ideas displayed by the nearly 920 vendors at the event.

One of the biggest advances comes in the form of “multi-sensor fusion technology,” developed by Giant Gray Inc. The product is the first for Behavioral Recognition Systems Inc., the successor to BRS Labs in Houston. Giant Gray builds on 10 years of innovation funded by more than $100 million in venture capital.

The company, which has contracts with nearly a dozen mass transit authorities, waste water treatment facilities and the five major oil and gas producers, is looking to expand into theft prevention for big box retail.

This technology could make the Strip, McCarran Airport and other major gathering spaces within our community, a lot safer in the future.

In simple terms, Giant Gray has developed software that attaches to the back end of any monitoring system. The software then spends a short period of time learning what is normal for the environment that it is monitoring and then identifies abnormal incidences, tags the anomaly and sends a clip of the incidence to someone who is assigned to take care of the problem.

The technology behind the ability to learn is called “artificial cognitive neurolinguistics.” The key is adaptive and self-learning software based on algorithms that enable the computer to see anomalies that are perhaps very visible but hidden behind oceans of data.

The system is not only designed to identify visual anomalies that are picked up by security cameras but also works well with computer monitoring systems that you might find in a large processing or manufacturing environment.

In a real world application such as Las Vegas, the Giant Gray system has the capability to monitor thousands of cameras at once. It can recognize instances such as altercations between people, packages that are dropped and left and loitering behavior. Where humans in monitoring stations would miss many of these types of behaviors, the computer does not blink, take a sip of coffee, take calls or otherwise become distracted.

Once an instance is identified, a screen shot is captured and sent by email or text message to a designated person. That person can look at the photo to immediately determine the action needed in nearly real-time response.

“The system was designed from the ground up to detect the unexpected — and do so at an extreme scale,” said Steve Sulgrove, president and CEO of Giant Gray.

The system is also capable of monitoring the systems controls in a large building or at a utility plant such as a casino, Southwest Gas, Southern Nevada Water Authority or NV Energy. In this type of application, the computer software analyzes subtle anomalies that could be precursors to events such as power outages or line breaks. The system can also detect cyber-intrusion.

While this type of advanced technology may not be right for every business, it could be the next advancement in the world of homeland security.

On a large scale, the system can be integrated into traffic cameras and other surveillance systems for around $150,000, plus an additional per camera fee.

On a smaller scale such as a retail store, the system will monitor a dozen cameras and the computer system for cyber-theft starting at around $25,000.


Xceligent works hard to get numbers right

Identifying, cataloging and listing the vast amount of retail, office, industrial and multifamily properties that are for lease and sale in the Las Vegas Valley is no small task.

Unlike the residential market which has the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that acts as a centralized record-keeper for all residential sales, information for the commercial markets must be gathered and, more importantly, verified.

This is where companies such as Xceligent, LoopNet, CoStar, PropertyLine, Catylist, Showcase and City Feet enter the picture. Each of these companies tries to gather information and compile lists of commercial properties that are for sale or lease; some do a better job than others.

According to Soozi Jones Walker, president of the Commercial Alliance Las Vegas, Xceligent is the most accurate and comprehensive listing and reporting service of commercial real estate and industrial properties that are for sale or lease.

“We chose them because of their extensive peer review process and the fact that Xceligent reviews each commercial real estate transaction to make sure that it is accurately reported,” said Walker.

In addition to building a comprehensive inventory of commercial properties within a given market, the firm also identifies buildings that are available for lease and sale, tenant information, historical trends on lease rates and building occupancy, sales comparables and provides market analytics and demographics.

To accomplish this monumental task, Xceligent, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, has more than 1,100 researchers, IT and field personnel who maintain regular contact with commercial real estate brokers and property management companies in all of the 42 markets the firm serves.

One of the trademarks of Xceligent’s business model is its extensive verification process. When the firm first enters a market, it uses tax assessor files to create a baseline of commercial properties. They then identify the broker or property management company representing each building and contact them to verify and match tenant records to each property.

Once a market baseline is established, Xceligent proactively calls each listing representative on a 30 to 45-day cycle to make sure their data is up to date.

This issue of the Las Vegas Business Press marks the debut of the Quarterly Commercial Real Estate Review, in which Xceligent data will be used to tell the story of the health of the Las Vegas commercial market.

When it comes to vacancies and absorption, it is important to know that those figures are verified by a local Xceligent field representative who canvasses the market to distinguish when blocks of space become physically vacant versus being marketed as available. And if a company simply moves from one space to another, the absorption rate does not change unless they acquired a larger space or downsized and then the difference is reported.

While the housing market is tabulated by MLS (except for sale by owner listings), and the sale prices reported are relatively straightforward. The commercial real estate numbers, on the other hand, are often more complicated. Each month, reported sale prices in the Las Vegas market are reviewed by a representative of Xceligent and CALV member brokerage firms. If a dollar amount seems out of line, that transaction is flagged and a call is made to the brokers that represented the buyer and seller to verify the actual dollar amount.

A lot of time and money is spent on gathering information, verifying the facts, and analyzing the market. This information benefits the property owners, business owners, brokers and property managers by letting them know the types of office, retail and industrial products that are popular and in short supply, as well as the type of products that are trending, in various sections of the valley. This type of information works to keep the market from overbuilding a particular type of product which in turn stabilizes the leasing rates.

On the other side of the coin, if the quarterly reports show that Las Vegas is underserved by a particular type of office or industrial product, it could mean that we are missing an opportunity to bring new businesses to our community and triggers the developers to build the missing component.

While it may seem that these numbers are only relevant to those persons directly involved in the commercial real estate industry, when combined with other economic numbers such as state revenues, retail sales and cost of goods, these numbers help local analysts to easily predict the near future of the local economy.


Office space comeback has long way to travel

The Las Vegas Valley’s long-troubled market for office space is staging a small comeback.

A bit more than 169,000 square feet in total were absorbed during the first quarter. Total vacancy rates have dropped to 18.4 percent, down from 18.8 percent in the previous quarter. Direct absorption for first quarter is reported at just over 159,000 square feet while direct vacancy is 17.5 percent.

Within Southern Nevada, which is broken down into sections, there are 1,991 commercial office buildings containing 43,662,011 square feet, categorized as Class A, B or C space. More than 8 million square feet of that space remains vacant.

According to Xceligent, a firm that tracks all commercial real estate sales and leases, the tenants accounting for the majority of the lease expansions signed during the first quarter were mortgage companies, law firms and service companies.

United Health Care, which gave up 43,580 square feet of space in the northwest, consolidated its operations into 100,625 square feet in the Central West. JSA Healthcare also acquired 38,624 square feet, accounting for two of the largest square footage acquisitions.

Companies such as B.O.N. Labs, Component Assembly Systems, Spectrun Services and InCorp Services gave up a little more than 54,330 square feet in the past quarter.

Tenants in the Southern Nevada market are agreeing to longer-term leases due to the lack of new speculative development in the office sector. According to Xceligent, the high cost of land prices along with high construction costs are the cause of low speculative development.

Robert “Bob” Potter of Affordable Concepts, a local commercial contractor agrees. “The cost of building materials such as asphalt, concrete, steel, etc., is going up by 3 to 7 percent each month. Also, because of the labor loss during the recession, there is now a shortage of experienced construction workers. It used to be that a contractor would write off the labor, but now they are building it into the price,” said Potter.

The area with the highest vacancy rate is Henderson North at 25.8 percent and the lowest is Henderson South at 12.5 percent. Those figures are even more impressive considering that Henderson South has a total of 4,418,508 square feet of total inventory and Henderson North has only 1,793,861 square feet of total space to fill.

The West section of the valley has the highest inventory of developed property at 7,682,189 square feet, divided among 331 buildings, and the third lowest vacancy rate at 16.4 percent.

The Airport section has the third-highest amount of developed property at 5,581,477 square feet divided among 238 properties. It has the second-lowest in vacancy rate at 15.1 percent.

To prove how numbers can be deceiving, the north part of the valley, which ranks No. 6 in vacancy at 17.2 percent, falls into last place for the amount of developed commercial properties at 1,218,475 square feet, divided among 89 buildings.

The average weighted asking rates range from $1.34 up to $2.23 per square foot.

It is no surprise that the highest rates are in areas with the least percentage of available Class A and B office space.

Downtown Las Vegas has the highest demand for office space and one of the lowest vacancy rates but ranks No. 8 (out of 10 markets) for the total available office square footage. Because of the supply vs. demand factor, Downtown Las Vegas garners the top lease rate of $2.33 per square foot, followed by the Southwest at $2.04, and the West at $2.02.

Though the number is low, there is 231,555 square feet of new construction being built in the West, Southwest, North and Airport areas of the valley. How the new space affects the occupancy rates will play out in the coming quarters.

Not every building in the Las Vegas Valley is included in this report. The Las Vegas office tracked set consists of all existing single and multitenant office buildings larger than 5,000 square feet, excluding government buildings, medical buildings and office condo buildings.

Also, the average weighted asking rates are expressed as a full-service/gross rental rate and weighted on total direct available square feet. Nonfull-service rates (such as NNN) have been grossed up to reflect a full-service/gross rate.


Split on future of energy in Nevada

Just a matter of weeks after the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada made its final ruling on the net energy metering rules for residential rooftop solar, Green Chips hosted a one-on-one discussion between Brandon Hurlbut, former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Lyndon Rive, CEO of Solar City.

Not surprisingly, their view of energy’s future is at odds with PUCN’s decision.

During the discussion, Rive described the basics of residential rooftop solar and his ideas on ways utility companies need to change their business models.

“Utilities don’t make money selling energy,” Rive said. “They make money deploying infrastructure (building more power plants and distribution lines), and the way that they recoup the cost of building that infrastructure is through energy sales.

“Don’t get me wrong — we still need a centralized infrastructure, and the utility is still a very important part of the ingredient. But with the implementation of residential solar, you can now start incorporating more equipment into the solution which can make the grid more stable and provide the same services at a lower cost. You need this scale.”

Rive pointed out that “States like California and New York are asking, what is the right long-term policy? How do you create a system that is fair to everyone?”

A recent Public Utilities Commission decision in California has kept the state on a positive glide path to building a distributive grid where everyone can benefit. The first thing they did was institute a time-of-use charge, meaning the energy that you put into the grid is priced at the value of energy at that time.

New York, on the other hand, is using a different approach by trying to reinvent the way a utility makes its money. They are instigating a revenue reform and instead of motivating a utility to build more infrastructure, they are creating an open field, where the residents and businesses put in the infrastructure. The government then tasks the utilities to use that infrastructure, make money from it, and provide quality, consistent service to the end users.

In response to these two approaches, the critics ask, if everyone goes solar, who pays for the grid?

According to Rive, “that question is over exaggerated because, in reality, you are going to have phases in which solar is deployed.”

In the first phase, solar is straight forward net metering, which is what Nevada had until December of 2015.

The second phase is how solar can provide more services to the grid. Instead of just producing energy, solar will also provide voltage control and reactive power. This technology is here today, and these are services that can be utilized by the grid administrator at the utility company.

The third phase is storage, which allows for demand load shifting.

“The cost of storage has dropped by half over the last three to four years and projections are that the costs will drop by half again in the next three to four years,” Rive said.

(For a look into energy storage, see the March 2 Las Vegas Business Press story on Juice Box. )

During the discussion, Hurlbut asked, “If Alexander Graham Bell came back today and saw how telecommunications has changed with iPhones and such he would be amazed. But if Thomas Edison came back today and saw the electric grid, would he be amazed?”

“If Edison came back today, he would be right at home because nothing has changed,” Rive replied. “Most energy is still generated in a centralized location and then transported hundreds of miles to get to a person’s house.”

However, according to Rive, technology has advanced to the point that solar can make a positive impact on the grid.

“The idea that we can deploy a solar system with a smart inverter that can provide reactive power and voltage control 24/7 used to be years away. With current advances, that technology will be available at the end of this year and will be a default part of all new solar systems installed. We used to be able to store energy one way, and now we can go two ways,” Rive said.

“So a home can be solar paneled with a battery, have smart appliances and a programmable thermostat that would all work together, and the consumer would pay for everything,” Hurlbut asked.

“Exactly,” Rive said. “And the long-term manager of that interfacing technology will be the utility.”

The utility will remotely control how much energy is sent to the grid from each rooftop solar system. Instead of having one big power plant with a dispatch load that they manage, they could have hundreds of thousands of little power plants with instantaneous reaction to areas where peak loads are needed.

“So that is what I see as the future is a smart community, but the utility will be very much involved,” Rive said.

However, NV Energy is resisting change. “Warren Buffett suggested that non-solar customers have to pay more than solar customers in Nevada, in order to pay for the grid,” Rive said. “Solar is not a hardship; it is a net benefit.”

A study by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), was presented to the PUCN in 2015, and shows solar as a $144 net benefit to all ratepayers. In contrast, a cost study completed by NV Energy said that Nevada net energy metering customers are being subsidized in the amount of $1,544.11 per month.

Rive argues that when solar is deployed, that infrastructure is adding value to the grid. But, because of the way utility companies make their money, by adding utility scale infrastructure, they can never admit that small distributive energy projects such as residential rooftop solar adds value.

The utilities claim they can purchase utility scale solar for 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour, which is true for new systems, but that figure does not take into consideration the cost of transmission and line loss meaning the amount of energy lost per mile to transport that power hundreds of miles to the end users.

“If you look at all of the utility-scale systems in service with over 300,000-megawatt hours that have been contracted across the U.S., the average rate is 13 cents per kilowatt hour. Then you add distribution costs and line loss on top of that; you are at roughly 15 to 16 cents per kilowatt hour. If you add all of the net metering customers together, you get about 150,000-megawatt hours with a net meter rate of about 11 cents without the distribution costs and line loss,” Rive said.

In the end, according to Rive, “State policies need change and move from just consuming energy to consuming cleaner energy. We have seen this in regulatory policy standards which starts forcing the transformation from burning coal and natural gas to renewable energy sources.

“But I think we are making a big mistake by putting our environmental future into the hands of a few companies. The biggest driver of innovation in any industry is competition. When you don’t have competition, the product will not evolve. So in order to have the grid evolve, you have to open it up and let the industry compete for it. Then amazing products will be created which would be a benefit to everyone. This is why distributed energy is so important.”