Tag Archives: Nevada

Asian Influence and Population Growth Brings Economic Benefit to Vegas Valley


Anyone who has lived in Las Vegas more than 30 years has seen a lot of changes, not only along the tourist corridors of the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown’s Glitter Gulch, but the neighborhoods and side streets as well.

Spring Mountain Road, which starts at Las Vegas Boulevard and heads west to Hualapai Way, is one of those major streets that has seen dramatic change visually and culturally.

Now, distinguished by its Asian-themed restaurants, grocery stores, shops and medical practices, it is hard to picture Spring Mountain’s early days as a semi-industrial blend of warehouse buildings with storefronts and vast sections of desert.

The August opening of the $1 million Chubby Cattle restaurant at the corner of Spring Mountain and Jones Boulevard is one of the high-water marks for the road. Owner Harby Yang spared no expense when designing the 3,600-square-foot space, complete with a waterfall, custom designed 3-D recessed sky ceiling, custom-made, hand-cut tables with induction cookers and seating for 160 guests.

By recruiting Master Chef Mr. Ho, former corporate chef for Little Lamb International, Chubby Cattle also adds to the list of distinguished chefs that now call Las Vegas home.

This restaurant is looking to reform traditional Mongolian cuisine and is the first of its kind to combine refrigerated, conveyor belt-based hot pot with the finest traditional foods from Asia. The goal is to provide customers with the healthiest way to enjoy fresh dishes.

Looking back in history to 1988, the only authentic Asian influence on Spring Mountain was the Cathay House Chinese Restaurant. Located just west of Decatur Boulevard, the restaurant had an unobstructed view of the entire Strip and was known for fine dining.

However, all of that changed nearly overnight in 1995, when James Chen, the Taiwanese-American owner of JHK Investment Group, bought the two block warehouse-retail complex at the corner of Spring Mountain and Valley View Boulevard and gave it a complete makeover, using traditional Chinese architectural colors and facades and rebranding it as Chinatown Plaza. Chen even built a paifang, a traditional-style Chinese arch as a gateway to the plaza.

Promoted as a blend of “East meets West” where Asians can buy traditional products and others can experience Asian culture, the plaza became an immediate success.

In 1999, then-Gov. Kenny Guinn officially designated this section of Spring Mountain as Chinatown, prompting exit signs off Interstate 15 and a rapid westward expansion of Asian culture businesses to Rainbow Boulevard where the Korea Town Plaza now occupies a prominent corner featuring the Greenland Supermarket and food court.

Around 2004, the modern Pacific Asian Plaza opened with a supermarket and 31 businesses, from restaurants, tax services, insurance companies, hair salons, a massage school, real estate offices, smoke shops and a lounge.

According to Lana Pazargad, coordinator for the Plaza, “The businesses are predominantly Chinese and Korean, but there are shops owned by immigrants from about nine separate Asian countries.”

In 2006, an Asian-themed hotel-casino was planned for the southeast corner of Spring Mountain and Valley View, but as with many projects, the recession made those plans crumble. Today, that site is owned by Fore Property and construction has started on a 295-unit apartment complex with modern amenities. Citing the fact that Chinatown is a “vibrant area,” the owners are hoping to capitalize on the abundance of restaurants and shops located just across the street.

dina-titus-2During the Aug. 25 meeting of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus was the featured guest speaker and complimented both the chamber and its members on the significant contribution they have made to the community and the economy.

Quoting statistics, Titus stated that outside of California, the Las Vegas metropolitan area has the third-largest Asian population of any metro area in the western U.S., growing from 3 percent in 1990 to 10 percent of today’s population.

“Not only is the Asian community 10 percent of our population, it is also 9 percent of the electorate in Nevada. In some of the close elections, for which Nevada is famous, the Asian vote has made a key difference for candidates winning by just 6 to 8 percentage points,” Titus said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asians overtook Hispanics as Nevada’s fastest growing immigrant group — almost doubling the growth rate of immigration from Mexico and Central and South America.

Of the current population, the Filipino-American contingency is the largest, followed in order by the Chinese, Japanese, Korean and East Indian populations.

In 2015, Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West, told KNPR’s “State of Nevada” that one of the biggest draws for Asian immigrants has been the availability of health care jobs.

According to Lang, Nevada went looking for those skilled workers from Asia and has benefited greatly. “We would be worse off if we didn’t have so many Filipino nurses,” Lang said.

Titus, during her speech, found it interesting that “In the high schools in my district, which are so varied, during the last school year Tagalog (spoken in the Philippines), Japanese and Vietnamese are among the top five languages that were spoken.”

According to David Zhao, CEO of NXTFactor, a partner in the Chubby Cattle Restaurant, “after researching the hot pot market in Las Vegas, we saw a huge opportunity to open Chubby Cattle, as there were no modern and authentic hot pot restaurants in the area. The soup base, sauce station, cooking method, food distribution system, quality of food and drinks were just outdated. It’s time to revolutionize the hot pot experience and to be able to showcase this world-renown cuisine (with both history and culture) to the West.”

The Cathay House, which suffered in popularity and then financially after the vacant property just to the east was developed, blocking the picturesque view of the Strip, has been closed and reopened multiple times. In 2013 the name was changed to The Jade Restaurant and in January of this year the property was sold again and reopened again after a major renovation under the name Hong Kong Dim Sum and Seafood Garden II.

As for the Chubby Cattle, Zhao has high hopes for the prominent location along Spring Mountain’s prosperous Asian-themed corridor but is not stopping there.

“Consider this the first location for Chubby Cattle as we plan on taking it to the high-profile hotels and potentially along the Las Vegas Strip. We’re already in discussion with upcoming establishments for opportunities for the second franchise of our conveyor-belt hot pot and barbecue experience,” Zhao said.

Compound pharmacies spread to meet need for customized prescriptions in Southern Nevada

In the past six years, compound pharmacies, which customize prescriptions according to a physician’s specifications, have spread in Southern Nevada. The niche market is growing both locally and nationally.

Customized prescriptions are necessary for patients who need a specific potency that isn’t available in premanufactured, over-the-counter doses, or to eliminate inactive ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction in patients. These pharmacies also prepare prescriptions for alternative routes of administration, and can change or enhance flavoring to make a prescription more palatable.

According to American Pharmacist, an industry trade group, about 65 percent of the nation’s independent pharmacies provide compounding services. These pharmacies fill prescription orders for the general public, and also serve hospitals, senior care facilities and other specialty care medical facilities, the group said.

In Las Vegas, the oldest retail compound pharmacy is Partell Specialty Pharmacy, licensed in 1991, that has two retail locations. In 2006, Solutions Specialty Pharmacy opened, followed by Precision Specialty Pharmacy in 2010, each with one location in the valley. From 2012 to 2014, four other compound pharmacies were licensed locally.

Adults 65 and older are likelier to have chronic illnesses, which increases demand for prescriptions. Also, elderly people often require personalized dosage forms, flavors or medications that comply with their allergies and alternative routes of administration.

Industry size

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America reports that about 3.6 billion prescriptions are dispensed in the United States each year. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention estimates that 30 million to 40 million of those prescriptions are compounded medications.

According to the report, there are 5,513 retail compounding pharmacies in the United States, which generate $5.6 billion in revenue and $1.5 billion in profits. From 2015 to 2020, industry revenue is forecast to grow at an annualized rate of 2.6 percent to $6.4 billion. The breakdown of revenue sources are:

■ Pharmaceutical ingredient alternation 35 percent

■ Pharmaceutical application alternation 20 percent

■ Currently unavailable pharmaceutical manufacturing 20 percent

■ Pharmaceutical dosage alternation 15 percent

■ Specialized animal pharmaceutical 10 percent

Most major hospitals have their own in-house compounding pharmacies that aren’t included in this survey.


A Nevada State Board of Pharmacy representative said compounding is a general term referring to pharmacies that dispense medications according to a physician’s prescription.

Dispensing a 30- or 90-day supply of pills, or liquid medicine, even if premanufactured, is a form of compounding. However, not every pharmacy is equipped or has the expertise to mix pharmaceuticals to a custom strength/potency, and package them as directed in capsule, liquid, cream, gel or powder form.

Although all pharmacists graduate with basic compounding knowledge, pharmacists who work in compound pharmacies take specialized continuing education courses in compounding medicines.

Professional Compounding Centers of America, an education organization training pharmacists in compounding techniques, supplies compounding equipment and maintains a database of over 8,000 proprietary formulas of medicines that have been pretested.

“Our pharmacists have access to proven and pretested formulas, which we use as the basis for our compounding work. The formulas are made up of inactive and active ingredients, and after we mix those ingredients together, the compound is tested to make sure it meets the potency requirements prescribed by the physician,” said Precision Specialty Pharmacy owner George Maiorano.

Sterile versus nonsterile

There is a distinction between being able to compound sterile and nonsterile pharmaceuticals. Nonsterile medications are pills, creams, lollipops and gels that are not contaminated by exposure to the atmosphere. Sterile medications are those produced within a special bacteria-free environment, and delivered by injection or IV bags. Only three of the seven compound pharmacies in Las Vegas — Partell, Precision, and Solutions — have the facilities to produce sterile medications.

Besides compounding, most of the specialty pharmacies also dispense standard premanufactured medications and health products.

“We do it as a convenience to our customers,” Maiorano said. “Many of our customers want to shop in a single location, so we also provide them with heart or diabetes, and other medicines, that they take on a regular basis.”

Municipality headed toward net-zero energy

The city of Las Vegas is looking a bit more green these days. Over the past 26 years, it has reduced its energy costs by $5 million annually and increased the recycling rate to 60 percent. The city recently signed contracts for hydropower and solar energy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent while increasing the amount of green energy use to 100 percent. It is on track to become one of only four net-zero energy cities in the U.S.

The city started its green transition in 2008 with the receipt of money from the National Recovery Act. However, the project was set into motion three years earlier when former Mayor Oscar Goodman signed a Climate Protection Agreement drafted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to urge the federal and state governments to take action against climate change.

One of the first projects involved changing streetlights from energy-hogging mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium lights to energy-efficient light-emitting diode bulbs; approximately 80 percent of the fixtures have been converted.

Significant in the commitment to becoming green was the construction of the new $146 million City Hall building, which opened Feb. 21, 2012. Designed with advanced energy and water-saving factors including Low-E windows, high R-value insulation, innovative heating and air conditioning and solar panels that provide 10 percent of the total energy, the building was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council with a silver rating under the Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design standard.

Another showcase is the original Las Vegas Post Office, which was acquired by the city and converted to the Mob Museum. During its restoration, the building was gutted and updated with the latest insulation, lighting, thermal windows and air-conditioning technology resulting in a LEED silver certification for a building retrofit.

The city owns or leases thousands of square feet of building space in about 120 buildings throughout the city limits. Included are fire stations, park buildings, and various warehouse and administrative buildings. Many of the new fire stations have been LEED-certified and facilities throughout the city have been equipped with solar panels to offset some of their energy use with sustainable solar power.

All of the solar energy systems on city-owned properties combined provide approximately 12 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year.

In addition to generating clean energy, the city has been busy retrofitting all of its buildings with new energy- and water-saving technology. Most of the office building lighting has been converted from fluorescent and incandescent fixtures to LED. And low-flow water devices and toilets have been installed in all restrooms.

One of the largest retrofit projects involved the replacement of all windows and a new heating and cooling system on the nine-story Development Services Building at the corner of Rancho Drive and U.S. Highway 95. Originally built with 1980 technology, the city also installed modern water-efficient fixtures, LED lighting and occupancy sensors that turn off lighting when the room is not in use.

In 2010, the city used over 150 million kilowatt-hours per year, with the current conversions in place. That number has dropped to below 120 million. And despite a 57 percent population increase over the last 26 years, Las Vegas has reduced greenhouse gas levels by over one-third, bringing it down to 1990 levels.

Even with all of the accomplishments, the mayor, Las Vegas City Council members and city staff have not stopped working toward becoming more sustainable.

Starting in October 2017, Las Vegas will receive two megawatts of hydroelectric power generated by Hoover Dam. This energy is not only clean and sustainable but inexpensive. The allocation is the result of a recent federal act that reallocated the dam’s power distribution. The city of Las Vegas was one of the many applicants that were accepted from a number of governmental entities and Native American tribes.

City officials have also signed an agreement with NV Energy to purchase all of its power from the Boulder City II Solar Energy Project upon its completion in January. With this agreement, the city of Las Vegas will become a 100 percent net-zero-energy city. What makes this accomplishment,even more groundbreaking is that the other cities in this elite category have populations under 50,000 and use far less energy than the city of Las Vegas with a population of more than 600,000.

The added solar and hydropower energy also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent.

On Dec. 6, 2015, the city of Las Vegas received certification as a Four-Star Community, earning 77.8 points out of 100 in the category of Climate and Energy. The city ranked high in the subcategories of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, Greening the Energy Supply, Resource Efficient Buildings and Waste Minimization.

The city of Las Vegas is also focusing on becoming the net-zero capital of waste. Leaders are looking at ways to compost all of the organic waste, which includes grass and tree clippings that accumulate from parks and green areas throughout the city.

MGM Mirage Sustainability Discovery Center provides educational programs

David Blasko is passionate about saving the planet and caring for the creatures of the earth. He is also the director of the department of animal care for The Mirage and the creator of the MGM Mirage Sustainability Discovery Center.

The purpose of the Sustainability Discovery Center is to educate visitors and locals on the importance of taking care of the environment.

“The one thing that I have failed to do for perhaps the first two-thirds of my career is to give people action items where they can make a difference. We have instilled passion but failed to provide a path,” said Blasko, speaking about his 45-year career in caring for animals and educating people about the role that animals play in the environment. The last nearly 10 years of his career have been spent at the Mirage where he oversees the health and safety of the resort’s dolphins and white tigers.

It was Blasko’s passion for saving the environment that started him thinking about the development of a Sustainability Discovery Center.

“I thought that it was important to develop messaging that would give people action items so that they can go out and do things that would have a positive impact on the environment and help these animals.”

It took about 18 months and a large team of individuals with varying skills to bring Blasko’s vision to reality. “You have to understand that it is a very strange, twisting path from my brain to where something actually happens,” Blasko said with a laugh when asked how the idea for the Sustainability Discovery Center came to be.

The theme that was developed is based on water because of the important role that it plays in the lives of animals and humans, no matter where they live. As mammals, dolphins are very sensitive to changes in the ocean and that ties into the Dolphin Habitat at the MGM Mirage.

The MGM Corp. is very invested in sustainability. Each of the properties along the Strip and around the world goes to great lengths to conserve water, energy and to recycle waste.

In Las Vegas, Republic Services is a key partner in helping the MGM properties recycle as much material as possible. As a result of the MGM and Republic partnership, MGM Resorts recycles 28 million glass bottles each year. In 2015, The Mirage alone reached a 45 percentile in recycling, equaling over 4,000 tons of material that did not go to the landfill.

“We are always looking for ways to educate the community about how recycling helps the environment,” said Tracy Skenandore, area director of public relations and field communications for Republic Services Mountain Area.

Republic services recently constructed its $35 million, 110,000-square-foot recycling center with the capacity to process 3 million pounds of paper, glass and metal.

“Now that we have opened our new recycling facility, we are expanding our community outreach even more to encourage greater participation in the recycling program,” Skenandore said.

The Dolphin Habitat and the Sigfried &Roy Secret Garden are research and education facilities that offer tours to over 6,000 school children each year, teaching them about the ocean, the marine animals and the environment in general.

“We saw the Sustainability Discovery Center as a great opportunity to team with MGM in our effort to promote responsible waste management and recycling alongside MGM’s effort to promote their worldwide commitment to protecting the global environment,” Skenandore said.

Both the MGM and Republic Services understand that by teaching children the values of sustainability at an early age, they will continue those habits into adulthood. In fact, the children may be able to teach their parents the value of recycling, which in turn will help the Las Vegas community as a whole.

Big data meets casino floor

A lot has changed in the gaming industry — most notably, the shift from a single stream casino-based profit center to multiple profit centers in the retail, restaurant, nightclub, hospitality and even the swimming pool areas.

It used to take an army of accountants to gather data from each of the department silos and combine them into rudimentary reports, charts and graphs. Those functions are now performed with the push of a button, thanks to a company called VizExplorer.

The company is the brainchild of Andrew Cardno and took six years to develop. It was founded in 2008.

Cardno, the founder and chief technology officer of VizExplorer, is not only an expert at analyzing and interpreting data, he co-wrote the book on casino data analytics, “The Math that Gaming Made” (2011). His co-author is Ralph Thomas, a UNLV Ph.D. graduate in mathematics and VizExplorer’s chief data scientist/general manager of gaming and strategy.

Together, Cardno and Thomas have authored an 18-part series for Casino Enterprise Management Magazine titled, “Where is the Money?” Cardno holds more than 60 patent applications and has been a featured speaker on the subject of analytics at a variety of venues around the world.

VizExplorer’s corporate headquarters are in San Diego, but the Las Vegas office on Eastern Avenue near Windmill Parkway employs a team of 45 computer software engineers and analytical experts who spend their days developing complex algorithms to analyze casino operations. Cardno expects that number to grow to 60 employees in the next year.

Part of Cardno’s expertise is in the analysis of gaming customers. His programs analyze customer types and gaming preferences. VizExplorer’s team of Ph.D. and master’s-level researchers have developed an operational intelligence company focused on developing software that enables companies to analyze complex consumer data from multiple sources and then act on that data. The tools are designed to take a company from analysis to action.

“I think that the casino resort industry is very innovative, and I see constant change and new products,” Cardno said. “It is evolutionary, and I just love the speed with which we have innovated. It is hard to have imagined. In the future, I see a completely new business model developing with different kinds of social entertainment and new kinds of games emerging.”

In a January article titled Creating Customer-Centric Gaming Floors, Cardno states that “catering to today’s older gamblers while ignoring future gamblers (including potentially the very large group of millennials) is an extremely risky proposition for a casino.”

To demonstrate how the types of patrons and their preferences can change over time, Cardno uses the “Red Beaker Analogy.” In his example, a beaker is filled with red fluid symbolizing the initial group of customers. As a new group of blue customers start to patronize the casino, the water in the beaker starts to turn purple until the new type of player dominates the casino floor, turning the fluid to blue. The transformation is easy to see with water and colored dyes, but not so easy to detect without analytics to monitor.

“However, while following the slot averages and thus naturally catering to red customers seems like the right thing to do, we ignore blue customers at our future peril. They are the future of our business, and a lost new customer today could mean multiples more lost in the future,” said Cardno.

According to Cardno, “Much of the discussion around millennials has fallen into one of two camps: marketing and new products. On the marketing side, casinos are trying to create new areas of excitement that will draw millennials into gambling while they enjoy their current casino entertainment options of choice, like shows and dining. On the product side, slot operators are beginning to explore the concept of skill-based slot machines.”

Perhaps the millennials are the blue dye that changes the beaker water totally blue. With proper analytics, that tipping point will be visible to the casino executives, and they will then start monitoring for a new “red” group of players who will slowly turn the beaker fluid back to its original color.

The Silverton Casino was the first to buy into Cardno’s theories and expertise by becoming VizExplorer’s first customer. Using VizExplorer’s complex analytics has helped the Silverton to successfully expand its highly visible off-Strip presence.

Today, in addition to the Silverton, VizExplorer customers include Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos and more than 600 other casino clients on five continents. And VizExplorer is expanding its services to sports stadiums and manufacturing facilities.

In an article published in Casino Journal Feb. 9, Cardno writes “it is not just size of data that matters, it is also the diversity of sources.”

Cardno’s analytical programs combine the diverse data sources within the resort casino, systems like slot and table player tracking, slot and table accounting, cage accounting, bingo-poker-sports, hotel, food and beverage, employee tracking, valet, spa and many others. And of course, the data sources are multiplied by the number of resort properties.

“The challenges are the same regardless of the size and scale of the resort organization,” said Cardno

The main challenge is distilling the mountain of financial reports and customer profiles into useful information for the C-suite executives and the management team.

Cardno uses the example of the casino shuttle driver who picks up clients at the airport and various locations and drives them to the casino or planned events. The VizExplorer’s hostViz and greetViz modules provide real-time customer profiles that are available via smartphones and tablets. The connectivity of these programs allows the shuttle drivers and casino hosts to interact with the customers and make them feel welcomed by knowing when they last visited, the activities they like, where they are from, family members and other useful information.

Three other program modules are also available. FloorViz is an advanced slot floor optimization solution to help increase profits and maximize slot machine return on investment. CampaignViz is a marketing campaign management solution, complete with test and control to better segment audiences to deliver targeted campaigns to high-value players. And techViz is a real-time service and dispatch management solution to maximize the efficiency of the service department and drive slot floor profitability. All modules are designed to assist various levels of management with both the overall management of the resort and the individual departments.

On July 13, during the Casino Marketing &Technology Conference at the Paris Hotel, VizExplorer introduced its latest module, greetViz. The new program is designed to provide automated mobile alerts to staff members when important guests enter the property. This program allows staff members to personally greet the guest, send a drink, or welcome them in some other meaningful way.

“We have truly become the operational front end of a gaming operation,” said Cardno.

Data positive but Miller still wary

Twice in the same month, the state of the economy in Southern Nevada has come under the microscope in a forum staged for the local business community.

And while the numbers were close, those attending the UNLV Economic Outlook Update came away with a more guarded view of the future.

At the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance Perspective June 16, Jeremy Aguero, principal at Applied Analysis, delivered the numbers with almost boastful energy, proud of the accomplishments of the community.

Stephen Miller, director of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research, delivered the same message with a more tepid and somewhat cautionary tone, driven by his concerns for the world economy and how it might affect the U.S. as a nation and Las Vegas as an international resort destination.

Key in Miller’s overview is the fact that while the U.S. economy continues to expand, it is a “much-subdued expansion.” The world’s economic growth is slowing.

China, according to Miller, has tremendous influence over emerging countries in Africa and South America. China’s housing market is teetering due to an excess in inventory that could cause that nation’s economy to suffer another recession. A China recession could slow the trade of goods around the world which could influence other economies.

Despite the Brexit controversy, Miller sees the European area as a “weak player” in the world of economic influence.

Miller stated that the U.S. is entering its eighth year of expansion following the recession and according to the Conference Board’s U.S. Leading Economic Index, there is “no signal of recession” at this time.

To demonstrate his confidence in the U.S. economy, Miller presented a series of charts tracking manufacturing, Treasury interest rates, and even the U.S. Policy Uncertainty Index combined with the consumer sentiment, which all pointed in a positive direction. He said employment is “relatively strong,” crude oil prices are remaining low, and the housing market is “a bit tight.”

Miller, like Aguero during his Perspective presentation, was quick to point out the positive fact that employment levels in Southern Nevada have nearly reached the pre-recession level despite the fact that there are 50,000 fewer construction workers. That means a more diversified employment economy in Southern Nevada.

Again, Miller was cautiously optimistic, stating that the “Nevada economy continues to expand” but added that this is a “subdued expansion.” Miller sees continued “employment growth in most sectors.”

One of the positive signs is that Nevada tied with Michigan for the number 12 position in employment growth since the end of the “Great Recession.” Nevada also tied for fifth place along with Idaho, South Carolina, Florida, and Rhode Island in unemployment rate reduction.

However, Nevada is not without its problem areas. Nevada ranks number 48 when it comes to the number of children in households headed by someone with less than a high school education.

When it comes to children without health insurance, Nevada ranks 47th with 10 percent of the children falling into this category.

While the number of negative or near negative equity mortgages in Nevada fell from 73 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 22 percent in the third quarter of 2015, it is still one of the higher numbers in the U.S.

Miller finished his presentation with a number of charts showing upward trends in Clark County taxable sales and employment. Both the McCarran Passengers at 4 million and the Clark County visitor volume at 3.9 million are at near record-breaking levels despite the fact that Clark County hotel occupancy is at 87 percent, down from a prerecession high of close to 93 percent.

While gaming revenue is down from the prerecession peak of $1.05 billion, it is still rising from a recession low of $650 million to a current $850 million.

In the real estate sector, the office market vacancy rate has improved slightly from 26 percent down to 23 percent. Also showing a slight improvement is the retail market vacancy which has dropped from 11 percent to 9 percent. The most significant improvement came from the industrial market, which despite a large increase of constructed space, still managed to drop its vacancy rate from a high of nearly 17 percent down to a current 7 percent.

Miller summarized his guardedly positive outlook by pointing out the risks that could derail future economic progress. At the top of the list are “changes in the international growth” followed by U.S. monetary policy and its “schedule of interest rate changes.”

The final risk, which really does not have anything to do with the economics of the U.S. or any other country, is the threat of a terrorist event. Such an event could disrupt the U.S. economic growth and especially the growth of the Southern Nevada economy if it were to take place along the Strip or in the Fremont Street Experience.

Recession done; better days ahead

“I am tired of talking about the recession! The recession is over, and Las Vegas is moving forward.”

That was the message delivered by Jeremy Aguero, principal of Applied Analysis, during the 2016 Las Vegas Perspective presentation June 16.

Aguero, an economic analyst, posed a series of “What if” scenarios, asking what Southern Nevada would look like if it attained certain levels in education, employment, and other economic indicators. The questions were mostly rhetorical; he posted slide after slide showing that Southern Nevada had already met or exceeded his proposed benchmarks.

In the past year, Las Vegas ranked fifth among metropolitan areas in the nation for population growth.

Clark County has recaptured nearly all of the jobs that were lost during the recession. The state employs 936,100 people, just 700 fewer than were employed in May of 2007. The area has achieved that employment growth with 50,100 fewer construction workers.

“At the height of the construction boom, we were building homes for the construction workers that were building them,” Aguero said.

Taxable retail spending is at its highest level ever at $38.8 billion. Average hourly earnings are up 15.9 percent since January 2007 at $22.43, ranking Nevada as the having the nation’s fourth-highest hourly wage.

The number of business in Clark County grew by more than 2,000 in 2015 for to 53,468.

Besides the record number of visitors, increased visitor spending and convention revenues, Aguero also described educational achievements.

In the past year, the Clark County School District has had three National Merit Scholarship winners and been named as a College Board AP District of the Year. Vanderburg Elementary ranked in the top 50 best public elementary schools in the nation while Palo Verde High School was named an International Baccalaureate World School and both Bonner and Dooley Elementary were named National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Meanwhile, a panel discussion with Bo Bernhard, executive director, UNLV’s International Gaming Institute; Marcus Prater, executive director, Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers; and Christopher Oh, vice president of strategic operations for MGM Resorts International, highlighted how the gaming industry has changed and continues to change.

“Twenty years ago, more than 60 percent of the profits came from gaming,” Oh said. “In 2015, almost 65 percent of the Las Vegas resort industry’s revenue came from nongaming activities such as hotel room rates, nightclubs, pools, and dining. By its self, the Hakkasan nightclub at the MGM Grand generated over $100 million in 2015.”

Besides the hotel-casinos, many other businesses support the gaming industry, including gaming equipment manufacturers. Prater said Southern Nevada’s gaming suppliers and manufacturers have annual sales revenue of around $7 billion and employ about 16,500 people who earn about $1 billion annually.

Oh predicts that the casino floor will look different in 20 years, partly because of millennials.

Bernhard said millennials dislike the current slot machine options. To remedy that, skill-based gaming could be developed with variable payback winnings based on the player’s skill level.

The newest trend in gaming is e-sports, in which an audience watches two people play video games. Competitions are held across the country with prize money ranging from $10,000 to $7 million. Analysts estimate that there is a global audience of 100 million fans watching teams of players compete for the top dollars.

Gaming manufacturers and hotel-casinos want to take advantage of this trend and add skill-based gaming to the casino floors.

This was the 36th year for the Las Vegas Perspective presentation. It was started by the Nevada Development Authority, which rebranded as the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

The 208-page book of statistics about every public and nonprofit agency, major employers, housing, and other economic drivers in the Southern Nevada region is available online at https://www.lvgea.org/sponsor-the-perspective/, for $50.

Top grantmaker shares his wisdom

By Craig A. Ruark

Special to the Las Vegas Business Press

Edmund J Cain 2016 small

Edmond J. Cain, vice president of grant programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation speaks to members of the Nevada Corporate Giving Council about meeting philanthropic goals (Craig A. Ruark/special to the Las Vegas Business Press

“Love one another, for that, is the whole law; so our fellow men deserve to be loved and encouraged—never to be abandoned to wander alone in poverty and darkness.” Conrad N. Hilton (1887-1979)

During the June 10th lunch meeting of the Nevada Corporate Giving Council, some of the Las Vegas Valley’s most notable philanthropists and administrators of corporate philanthropic organizations were treated to a rare opportunity to listen to and ask questions of Edmund J. Cain, vice president of grant programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and one of the leading authorities on corporate giving.

During his talk, Cain, who is also the vice chair of the Southern California Grantmakers’ Board of Directors, pointed out that philanthropic donations amounted to $258 billion in America last year. But despite the fact that there are over 100,000 recognized foundations in the U.S., 72 percent of that money came from individuals.

“That money, if used smartly, can make a real difference in what we are trying to achieve,” said Cain.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was established in 1944 and since its inception has awarded more than $1 billion in grants. Today, the foundation assets are approximately $2.5 billion mostly due to the fact that Conrad Hilton he donated all of his wealth to the foundation in his final will.

While Conrad Hilton had made a lot of money, it was Barron Hilton that significantly increased the corporate wealth when, in 1971, he bought the famous International and Flamingo Hotels from Kirk Kerkorian, bringing gaming into the company holdings. For the next two decades, those two properties alone generated half of the revenue for the Hilton Corporation.

Like his father before him, Barron Hilton has pledged to the Foundation, upon his death, virtually all of the proceeds in excess of $4 billion that he received in 2008 from the sale of Hilton Hotels Corporation and Harrah’s Entertainment.

Currently, the Foundation ranks as number 30 among the largest charity organizations. With the addition of Barron Hilton’s financial pledge, the Foundation is likely to move into a position somewhere around 15.

The Hilton Foundation has gone through three eras’ which have evolved to define how corporate philanthropic decisions are made. The first was the “Conrad Era” where he would write a check to charities that stuck a cord in his heart. There was not any process for qualifying needs or abilities of those organizations to spend the money wisely.

The second era, headed by Don Hubbs, brought the organization into the era of major granting. Holmes established a process for identifying a few first class organizations and contributing to their cause.

The current “Strategic Era” is the third phase where the organization moved away from being reactive and simply identifying organizations, to hiring a professional staff and identifying issues that are aligned with the corporate values. These values are rooted in the life interests and vision of Conrad N. Hilton, “Assuring that the foundation pursues approaches that touch a diversity of people, places and needs by developing long-term projects and partnerships.”

“We invest in six strategic initiatives that involve funding multiple partners, generating new knowledge, and collaborating with other funders,” said Cain

In 2015, the Foundation gave out $107.8 million in grants to Catholic Sisters, children affected by HIV and Aids, foster youth, homelessness, substance use prevention, safe water, avoidable blindness, Multiple Sclerosis, disaster relief and recovery, Catholic education, and hospitality

In the first quarter of 2016, the Foundation has already given $18.5 million.

Prior to entering the world or philanthropic giving, Cain had a long career with the United Nations serving in Malaysia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Egypt. He was also the first director of the U.N. Emergency Response Division. Cain also served as a senior member of The Carter Center’s Peace Program team, advising President Carter on global development issues.

The mission of the Nevada Corporate Giving Council is to connect philanthropy leaders from across industries to share news and best practices, discuss trends, and gain a deeper understanding of the community’s needs. The organization meets quarterly and information about participation can be found at www.moonridgegroup.com.

Henderson couple reinvents biomedical search engine technology

Jeff Saffer and Vicki Burnett became entrepreneurs out of necessity.

The spouses, who hold doctorates and are biomedical researchers, hit a wall in being able to search for the scientific literature they needed.

So they worked to get it.

“The ability to find authoritative documents is very important,” Saffer said. “When searching the answer for an illness, you do not want to end up at John Doe’s blog and find out that his grandmother got better when she wore a green dress.”

The pair was struggling to understand the flood of information their work was generating. Out of frustration, the couple developed a rudimentary algorithm for a search engine to narrow their search results to more credible sources.

What started as a programming tool for their own research blossomed into a useful search engine for other research groups, too.

In 2008, the couple formed Quertle, an analytics company. (Quertle is a made-up word formed by combining “query” and “article”). Their initial free site became popular and was used in 192 countries worldwide. They hired programmers to help perfect their search engine, and the knowledge they gained over the next seven years led them to launch a new subscription-based program in 2015.

That program is Quetzal, named for a turquoise-and-red tropical bird that the Aztec and Mayan people regarded as the “bringer of wisdom to mankind.”

“However, just being able to search information does not bring wisdom because it is filled with misinformation and can be difficult to comprehend,” Burnett said.

“The way we do things with our artificial intelligence and quantum logic methodology is that we not only find the right document, but we make it intelligible for people to understand what is there and what ties those particular results to their query,” Saffer said. “That is where we are trying to provide the wisdom and not just a list of results.”

The Quetzal search engine uses information from defined sources; it is a licensee of the National Library of Medicine and has access to information from all the biomedical articles published through it, as well as Toxline, PubMed, Biomedical News, U.S. Patents, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

When a query is made, Quetzal looks at the documents stored in the database via a computer code that uses artificial intelligence, pattern matching, quantum logic, computation linguistics, and computational statistics. Those methodologies combined let the computer understand what the authors are talking about, then map the user’s query against points the author is making in the document so that the person searching receives a display of highly applicable query results.

Besides searching out information, the Quetzal site lets researchers hold real-time online discussions with colleagues about documents they have found. Unlike regular online chat rooms, Quetzal lets users invite selected individuals into the conversation. That conversation is encrypted to prevent hackers from ‘listening in.”

“The biomedical industry is very competitive, and there are a lot of people out there, trying to get a corporate advantage over their competitors,” said Saffer. “We do our best not to let that happen,” Burnett said.

When the couple started their company in 2008, they were living in Boulder, Colorado. They moved to Henderson in 2010.

“People don’t realize that having an international airport that’s always open can be critical for a business; not like in Denver when it closes down in the winter for snowstorms,” Burnett said.

Saffer said, “Of course, the tax structure, which is perhaps the number one reason for our relocation, along with the environment, made Southern Nevada a very desirable place to live.”

Wanting to inspire more diversity and bring additional bioscience industry to Nevada, Saffer and Burnett joined Lucine Biotechnology President and CEO Chandler Marrs to found the Parallel Innovation Labs project. The trio began holding monthly meetings they called the SciTech Hookup and invited other independent researchers to join them over cocktails. That effort grew into an annual conference with more than 300 attendees and more than a dozen vendors.

State leaving $529 million on table

“For nearly 40 years, Nevada ranked at or near the bottom of all 50 states and most territories in getting back federal tax dollars that its residents and businesses send to Washington, D.C.,” Miles Dickson, principal at The JABarrett Co. told the Nevada Corporate Giving Council luncheon June 10.

According to Dickson’s report, in 2012 alone, Nevada was shortchanged an estimated $529 million (excluding Medicaid) of funding when compared to neighboring intermountain west states. This included significant sums available but not received from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.

“This massive shortfall reduces the quality and quantity of services throughout the state and increases the general fund usage to fill in the gaps. In turn, the demand on local businesses to provide extra financial support is increased to replenish the general fund,” said Dickson.

Of the $600 billion to $700 billion distributed in the form of grants to each of the 50 states and the U.S. territories by Washington each year, Nevada receives back an average of between 63 and 68 cents of every dollar that the state sends to D.C., Dickson said.

Many states receive between 80 and 90 cents back for every dollar they send, and 10 to 15 states receive well over a dollar every cycle due to their aggressive grant application programs.

Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona have made grant application programs a priority for their states and in return receive some of the highest returns on their dollars.

“One of the things that has held Nevada back is the fact that our Legislature only meets for five months every other year, slowing the approval of grant applications,” Dickson said.

To rectify that situation, Gov. Brian Sandoval worked with the Legislature in 2011 to establish the Office of Grant Procurement.

In 2015, the Nevada Advisory Council on Federal Assistance (Grants Council) was established. This unique council of public, private, and nonprofit leaders is tasked with identifying barriers and developing solutions to increase federal grant funding.

Beginning in December 2015, the Grants Council had numerous and productive open meetings in which it identified and narrowed its focus to four primary issues that will be brought forward during the 2017 legislative session:

1. Establish a pilot fund of approximately $10 million for the biennium to allow the Governor’s Office of Finance, Grant’s Office, and state agencies the cash funds needed to secure high-priority, high-return competitive grants.

2. Fund and establish a statewide grants management system to identify and coordinate grant opportunities, as well as manage and report awarded grants.

3. Streamline the approval process for grant-related work plans while maintaining budgetary oversight.

4. Modify the language in the biennial budget authorization that creates a disincentive for agencies to pursue and secure federal grants.

Dickson is a third-generation Las Vegan with expertise and insight in public affairs, public policy, partnership development, social responsibility and strategy. The JABarrett Co. is a Las Vegas-based management consulting firm that serves leading businesses, governments and not-for-profit organizations.