Tag Archives: UNLV

Company’s goal is to become Silicon Valley of water technology

 

WaterStart, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit partnership of public- and private-sector organizations, is working to diversify the Las Vegas economy, create job growth and provide answers to drought and water quality issues in Nevada. Its goal is for Las Vegas to become the Silicon Valley of water technology.

A spinoff from the Desert Research Institute, WaterStart is a 501(C)6 organization that gets its funding from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It also receives matching funds for specific projects from its public and private partners, Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows water authorities, MGM Resorts, Winnemucca Farms, LVGEA, Reno Sparks Tahoe Economic Development Authority, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno.

Entering its second year of funding, WaterStart was networking with more than 1,500 water conservation professionals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico during the ninth annual Water Smart Innovations Conference and Exposition at the South Point in October.

Nathan Allen, executive director of the WaterStart initiative, explained that there are three basic drivers to the organization: to solve water challenges in Nevada through the use of new and innovative technology, build partnerships between private industry and the academic community and diversify the economy by attracting new businesses that create jobs.

To find these innovative technologies, Allen, with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental science and geology and a master’s degree in environmental education, has participated in the Governor’s Trade Mission, most recently to Australia, in an effort to facilitate an exchange of ideas.

The WaterStart team is not looking at conceptual ideas; it is only interested in prototypes that have been proven in the laboratory but have not had the opportunity to bring the product to market.

In the past 23 months, the four-member WaterStart team has vetted more than 150 technologies, received proposals from more than 60 companies that want to work with them and funded eight projects.

One of the projects is the installation of more than 3 miles of leak detection equipment on the water line that runs below the Las Vegas Strip. Edchologics, a Canadian company, is the first to develop this technology using a special microphone called a hydrophone that can hear water escaping. Another company, Syrinix, headquartered in the U.K., also is testing their TrunkMinder and PipeMinder on water lines in the valley to monitor pressure and flow data.

WaterStart is also responsible for bringing IONEX, a California company that builds customized, small-scale water treatment plants to Nevada. IONEX plans to build an assembly and research and development facility in North Las Vegas, and estimates are this company will bring $2.5 million in tax revenue to the state.

IMGeospatial, a British company, has worked with utility companies throughout Europe to supply water managers with automatic cloud-based analytics for their internal geospatial platforms. WaterStart paired the company with the Desert Research Institute to utilize its automated, patent-pending flood-modeling solutions. WaterStart is also close to completing a deal with IMGeospatial that will establish a Las Vegas branch office to house a software development team.

Winnemucca Farms, the largest agricultural producer in the state with 35,000 acres of irrigated land, has adopted water-saving irrigation technologies from around the world. Working with WaterStart, it is experimenting with a company that uses drone technology to measure plant stress from the air and improve irrigation precision while saving even more water.

All 17 counties in Nevada have been under a Drought Emergency Declaration since 2012. Besides having a lack of water for drinking, the drought has caused major problems with the buildup of nitrates in the groundwater.

Its goal is for Las Vegas to become the Silicon Valley of water technology.

A spinoff from the Desert Research Institute, WaterStart is a 501(C)6 organization that gets its funding from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It also receives matching funds for specific projects from its public and private partners, Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows water authorities, MGM Resorts, Winnemucca Farms, LVGEA, Reno Sparks Tahoe Economic Development Authority, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno.

Entering its second year of funding, WaterStart was networking with more than 1,500 water conservation professionals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico during the ninth annual Water Smart Innovations Conference and Exposition at the South Point in October.

Nathan Allen, executive director of the WaterStart initiative, explained that there are three basic drivers to the organization: to solve water challenges in Nevada through the use of new and innovative technology, build partnerships between private industry and the academic community and diversify the economy by attracting new businesses that create jobs.

To find these innovative technologies, Allen, with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental science and geology and a master’s degree in environmental education, has participated in the Governor’s Trade Mission, most recently to Australia, in an effort to facilitate an exchange of ideas.

The WaterStart team is not looking at conceptual ideas; it is only interested in prototypes that have been proven in the laboratory but have not had the opportunity to bring the product to market.

In the past 23 months, the four-member WaterStart team has vetted more than 150 technologies, received proposals from more than 60 companies that want to work with them and funded eight projects.

One of the projects is the installation of more than 3 miles of leak detection equipment on the water line that runs below the Las Vegas Strip. Edchologics, a Canadian company, is the first to develop this technology using a special microphone called a hydrophone that can hear water escaping. Another company, Syrinix, headquartered in the U.K., also is testing their TrunkMinder and PipeMinder on water lines in the valley to monitor pressure and flow data.

WaterStart is also responsible for bringing IONEX, a California company that builds customized, small-scale water treatment plants to Nevada. IONEX plans to build an assembly and research and development facility in North Las Vegas, and estimates are this company will bring $2.5 million in tax revenue to the state.

IMGeospatial, a British company, has worked with utility companies throughout Europe to supply water managers with automatic cloud-based analytics for their internal geospatial platforms. WaterStart paired the company with the Desert Research Institute to utilize its automated, patent-pending flood-modeling solutions. WaterStart is also close to completing a deal with IMGeospatial that will establish a Las Vegas branch office to house a software development team.

Winnemucca Farms, the largest agricultural producer in the state with 35,000 acres of irrigated land, has adopted water-saving irrigation technologies from around the world. Working with WaterStart, it is experimenting with a company that uses drone technology to measure plant stress from the air and improve irrigation precision while saving even more water.

All 17 counties in Nevada have been under a Drought Emergency Declaration since 2012. Besides having a lack of water for drinking, the drought has caused major problems with the buildup of nitrates in the groundwater.

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UNLV to capitalize on patent technologies

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Office of Economic Development is working to finally capitalize on years of research and development programs that have resulted in successful patents.

Most longtime Las Vegas residents may not realize that UNLV even engages in research activities.

“You could have told me they owned a unicorn and it would be just as believable.” said Bob Glennon, a 40-year resident of Las Vegas and managing partner of Las Vegas Sign and Flag.

The fact is that since 2009, UNLV’s staff and students have applied for and been awarded 179 patents, according to a report compiled by Zachary Miles, attorney and associate vice president for economic development at UNLV.

“Prior to 2009, nothing existed in the way of records for tracking patents owned by the university,” said Miles, who came on board in December 2013.

After organizing his department, Miles, who spent 10 years at the University of Utah in the technology commercialization office, began contacting with his network of individuals and organizations to track down current and future users of UNLV’s patent portfolio.

“We only have two or three technologies that are generating funding right now,” Miles said.

Miles connected with UNLV’s International Gaming Institute to compile a list of low-hanging fruit, such as software programs that were developed by the university and are being used in gaming applications. The next step was to sign agreements to collect revenue on UNLV’s intellectual property. In fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30, 2014, revenue from that low-hanging fruit amounted to $32,281.

Up until 2013, the university received zero dollars for its intellectual properties, but FY 2014 saw revenues climb to nearly $58,000. The revenue more than doubled to just more than $126,000 for FY 2015 and then doubled again in FY 2016 to over $252,000, according to a UNLV report.

This year, UNLV received $53.3 million in funding from federal grants, federal pass-through accounts, the state of Nevada, private industries and foundations and local businesses. This funding allowed for the continuation or startup of 389 research projects.

The UNLV International Gaming Institute averages about 15 disclosures each year. A disclosure is a document that announces a potential discovery or modification of an existing product or process that could result in the filing of a new patent.

“Of those, at least half, if not a little more, we are filing for a provisional patent,” Miles said. “Quite a few are being looked at by either gaming companies or resorts as possible licensing opportunities.”

The Institutes’s Center for Gaming Innovation enables students to create intellectual property, including casino games and innovations that have generated more than 30 patent applications to date. These patents and licensing agreements make up the majority of the $252,000 in revenue. The products are just starting to hit casino floors, according to a UNLV report.

But gaming is not the only research area benefiting from grants.

Recently, UNLV filed a patent on behalf of Zhiyong Wang, associate professor at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. Wang and his son developed a process that can increase the strength of a diamond by 5 percent.

Even though a diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance found on Earth, it falls into the “crystalline solid” category, possessing microscopic defects, fault lines, dislocations, occlusions and inclusions that are points of weakness.

The discovery made by Wang and his son is that when diamonds are immersed into a low-temperature — below 212 degrees Fahrenheit — plasma environment on a vibrating surface, the plasma fills the voids and chemically bonds with the carbon elements of the diamond, thereby increasing its crushing strength index by at least 5 percent.

While the strength of the crystalline structure of a diamond is of no importance to the jewelry industry, the majority of diamonds mined are used for industrial purposes. Small diamond particles are embedded in saw blades, drill bits and grinding wheels. The strength of these diamond particles determines how many times a bit, blade or wheel can be used before its abrasiveness wears out.

Miles is working with his contacts to sell this patent process to manufacturers of diamond-embedded cutting tools to monetize this intellectual property. Miles also has reached out to UNLV’s Center for Entrepreneurship to build a business plan around the process and promote it to industry.

UNLV, like most universities, encourages research and development but retains the rights to intellectual property. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 permits a university, small business or nonprofit to pursue patent ownership of an invention, even though the research may have been funded using government money. The act also specifies a reasonable split of the proceeds with the researchers.

UNLV is very generous to its research staff, allocating 60 percent to inventors; the norm at most public universities is 30 to 40 percent. The university department with the patent receives 25 percent of the revenue, while the remaining 15 percent is retained for administrative purposes, Miles said.

While UNLV has not had any truly life-changing patents to date, research is ongoing in two different areas that could put the university on the map.

One research team just developed a compound to prevent the Clostridium difficile bacterium from germinating and spreading. Often referred to as C. difficile or C. diff, this bacterium can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon and most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or in longterm care facilities and typically occurs after use of antibiotic medications. Because of testing requirements by the Food and Drug Administration, Miles expects it to take about eight years before it becomes available for use.

Faculty and students of the College of Engineering teamed with Lockheed Martin to test materials and protocols for their Orion project. The Orion spacecraft is being designed for long-duration, human-rated deep-space exploration and is expected to take astronauts to Mars and return them safely back to Earth.

“This partnership will provide unique opportunities for our students to enhance their knowledge and research capabilities in exciting new areas and help accelerate the efforts of Lockheed Martin research activities and the nation’s ambitious space program,” said Rama Venkat, dean of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.


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.


KUNV rethink underway as KNPR waits

As “Rebel yells” go, it may not have been as loud as those heard during the typical UNLV basketball game. But the students and listeners of KUNV, the university radio station, made enough noise to stop a management takeover by KNPR.

Still, there will be changes to the station.

On Dec. 4, a docket item that would have allowed Nevada Public Radio Corp. (NVPR) to manage KUNV was tabled, without a future date.

UNLV President Lee Jessup told the board that there have been a number of comments and suggestions made by students and the community volunteers for the improvement of the station, and he wanted to investigate those ideas further before committing to the takeover agreement.

Frank Mueller, general manager of KUNV, has been tasked with developing a new operating plan for the station. Once complete, it will be presented to Rob Ulmer, dean of the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. “We should have a plan in place by March,” said Ulmer.

KUNV, like other public broadcasting stations, relies on listener support for its funding. During the recent Fall Pledge cycle, the station raised $60,000 from community donations. Over the years, that support has not been able to pay all of the operating expenses and, according to Gerry Bomotti, UNLV’s senior vice president for finance and business, the university has been subsidizing the station to the tune of $220,000 per year.

KUNV’s inability to generate sufficient listener-supported donations correlates with a decline in listenership. In 2014, the station was rebranded as KUNV 91.5 “The Source,” and the contemporary jazz format jumped in ratings from about 35,000 people two years ago to 55,000. However, according to the latest ratings, that number has again fallen to 38,000, which ties KUNV with three other stations in 38th place among 42 radio stations.

Under the NVPR proposal, the university would still own the licenses for stations KUNV and the two associated digital channels (HD1 and HD2). However, NVPR would assume all of the expenses of running each of the three stations.

The $220,000 that the university is spending on KUNV could then be brought back in for use in the classrooms.

NVPR is the owner and operator of public radio stations KNPR, which programs 24-hour news from National Public Radio and the BBC, and KCNV, programming classical music, along with associated digital channels. NVPR also publishes Desert Companion Magazine.

In 2014, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a foundation set up to distribute government grant money to public radio and television stations across the United States, gave a grant to NVPR to look for partnership opportunities and then evaluate and create business models. The result of the evaluation was a proposal to UNLV that NVPR would be willing and able to manage and operate KUNV, utilizing an economy of scale, and relieve the university of the expense of operating the station, while allowing the university to retain all of the marketing and UNLV identification.

Flo Rogers, president and general manager of Nevada Public Radio, told the board, “Twenty intense months of evaluation and negotiation went into the agreement. Together, UNLV and NVPR would create a station that better reflected the campus, and the deal would bring financial stability to KUNV.”

For NVPR, Rogers is looking at the proposed partnership as “an opportunity to address our goal of engaging younger and more diverse individuals in public media production and management.”

“It’s a win-win to create rich educational and paid opportunities for students interested in broadcast and digital media. In turn, we create a pipeline of talent for our and other local media outlets through news, music, Desert Companion, video and online internships and graduate assistant positions. In turn, we will infuse all our media outlets with younger more diverse voices and viewpoints. We can also bring more national student-oriented journalism training projects (such as NextGen) to the station through our NPR affiliation. We anticipate student opportunities will increase over time through all of our public media brands,” said Rogers.

Today, KUNV has slots for up to 50 students per semester — 30 on the air doing their own program and 20 doing news. There are also 30 community volunteers.

Will the fans of KUNV’s jazz programming be able to keep their station as it is?

“Jazz is not going away,” Rogers said. In addition to KUNV HD3, NVPR’s Classical 89.7 HD2 also programs straight-ahead classic jazz.

 

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/heard-street/kunv-rethink-underway-knpr-waits#sthash.gOfnlvwo.dpuf


Woodbury sees need for new funding for infrastructure

 

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Many have seen his name on maps or posted along the 215, but Bruce Woodbury’s impact on the Las Vegas goes beyond being the visionary behind that beltway around the valley.

He’s no longer serving on the Clark County Commission, where he served for a record 28 years. But he’s still practicing law, still engaged in community projects and still advocating for transportation infrastructure.

These days, Woodbury is pushing for an extension of the monorail and sees a shift away from the fuel tax as the main source of funding for transportation infrastructure.

Born in Las Vegas in 1944, Woodbury attended historic Las Vegas High School where he was a four-year letterman and all-conference guard.

Woodbury’s son Rod penned a story for the Boulder City Magazine that recounted, “When he (Woodbury) was only 16, his father died of cancer, and his mother followed two years later. So, he married his sweetheart, started a family of seven, and ultimately graduated with honors from the University of Utah and Stanford Law School, where he took an early morning paper route and worked in a liquor bottling plant while my mom made draperies from home.”

Most people who know Woodbury describe him as shy and soft-spoken. But beneath his humble exterior is a man who almost single-handedly transformed Las Vegas from a small horse-and-buggy town to a master-planned community.

Woodbury graduated from Stanford in 1969 and returned to Southern Nevada, residing in Boulder City. He passed the Nevada Bar in 1970 and began practicing law in Las Vegas.

In 1976, Woodbury represented Clark County at the Nevada Supreme Court in a case about the consolidation of Clark County and the City of Las Vegas. Woodbury’s handling of that case along with his involvement in civic organizations caught the attention of then-Gov. Robert List who appointed Woodbury to the Clark County Commission in 1981 to replace Bob Broadbent, who had resigned. In 1982, voters elected Woodbury to his first of seven terms on the Clark County Commission.

Among his many official titles, Woodbury is often referred to as the “father of flood control” as it was his vision in 1985 to create the Clark County Regional Flood Control District. Since that time, the District has constructed dozens of detention basins and improved miles of drainage channels throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

In 1990, as the chairman of the County Commission and incoming chairman of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), Woodbury saw the need for improved transportation infrastructure and began working on a new transportation plan for the Las Vegas Valley. This plan included a “fair share” funding mechanism that was approved by the voters and resulted in the creation of the Desert Inn Super Arterial, pedestrian bridges around the intersections along the resort corridor of Las Vegas Boulevard, and a new and more efficient bus system. That initiative also created a beltway loop around the valley.

The beltway project started in Henderson at U.S. Highway 95 and worked west toward Interstate 15. It soon became obvious to Woodbury that it was going to take a long time to build full freeway segments around the valley. So Woodbury came up with a plan to build a combination of frontage roads and two-lane and four-lane segments around the valley and then come back and complete the project to freeway specifications. That work is ongoing.

The beltway became identified as the Bruce Woodbury Beltway or Clark County 215

“I am very grateful to a lot of people that took action to have that project named after me. The issue of infrastructure was a crusade for me, and I pleased with what we accomplished,” said Woodbury.

Although Woodbury no longer sits on the County Commission or the RTC, he is still very much involved in improving the infrastructure of the community.

On Feb. 3, 2009, Woodbury was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of the Las Vegas Monorail Co. and is working to promote the extension of the monorail from the MGM south to Mandalay Bay. In addition, he is working with a group of citizens to promote the passage of a November ballot question to extend the indexing of the fuel tax.

“This will be a very important ballot question and absolutely needed if we are going to continue with our infrastructure improvement plans,” said Woodbury.

However, with the increase in vehicle fuel efficiency and production of electric vehicles, the revenues from the fuel tax has steadily decreased each of the past five years.

“There is no question that the fuel tax is becoming less and less of a reliable source,” said Woodbury. “Part of the transportation plan that I came up with back in 1990 (with the help of others) goes well beyond the fuel tax. There are six different elements, including a sales tax component, motor vehicle privilege tax, developer tax and a hotel/motel room tax component. I think that you can expect to see more alternatives to the fuel tax similar to what we did in our 1990 plan.”

Nationwide, there are different proposals being considered, such as vehicle use and mileage taxes. However, due to the “big brother effect” of having a GPS monitor vehicle use and other types of reporting components necessary for gauging the use or miles traveled, those proposals have not been popular with the voting public.

In 1984, Woodbury joined the law firm of Jolley Urga and Worth, which later became Jolley Urga Woodbury & Little.

“I was fortunate that I had partners who supported me in my public service by accommodating my flexible hours and conflicting court dates.”

During his 28 years as a commissioner, Woodbury worked long hours. “Most of the time I had children in school and at night while they did their homework, I did mine,” he said.

Woodbury estimates that on average he split the work evenly 50/50 between his duties as a commissioner and as a lawyer/partner in the firm.

When it comes to the future landscape for lawyers and law firms in Nevada, Woodbury believes it will be challenging. He cites that the compensation for beginning lawyers has been stagnant and even down for the past five years and law school enrollments are also down. The trend for specialization has grown and will continue to grow, as well as the trend toward big multistate firms.

“But I think that there is still a place for a good, solid medium-size firm like ours that has a strong client base and solid reputation,” he said.

Over the years, the law firm of Jolley Urga Woodbury & Little has been approached numerous times by national firms to become their local branch, and by local firms to compete with the national firms.

“We have decided not to go with the trend. Whether that is smart or not, it has worked out OK for us,” said Woodbury.

The firm has a broad-based practice of which real estate and corporate law is a large part. They also do estate planning, probate, bankruptcy and personal injury work. In addition, Bill Urga, a highly respected and former member of the Nevada Gaming Commission, adds gaming and liquor licensing law to the portfolio.

With respect to the UNLV Boyd School of Law, Woodbury feels that students are receiving a high-quality education and are able to compete well with students from other universities. However, the best education usually comes after they graduate with experience.

“UNLV didn’t have a law school when I went to college, so I graduated Stanford and received a very good education,” he explained. “However, I learned far more in my first year or two after law school than I did during school.”

Woodbury did not plan to be a lawyer. He started out thinking that he might be in medicine or dentistry, following in the footprints of his father, an oral surgeon, or his grandfather and three uncles who were physicians.

“However, I didn’t enjoy chemistry lab or zoology classes so I switched major and thought — there is always law,” Woodbury said said with a chuckle, “because you can do a lot of things with a law degree. I probably was regarded as the black sheep of the family by becoming a lawyer — I tell people I couldn’t figure out anything useful to do so I became a lawyer and a politician instead.”

In addition to flood control and transportation planning, Woodbury is also responsible for the clean air we breathe, taking Las Vegas off the U.S. EPA’s nonattainment list while serving as the first chairman of the Clark County Air Quality Management Board and pressing for the county’s Clean Air Action Plan.

Woodbury also served as the first chairman of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition and served on various task forces and committees that studied the effects of growth. That growth arrived with a bang and Woodbury is looking forward to writing a new chapter in creating infrastructure to match that growth.

 

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/heard-street/woodbury-sees-need-new-funding-infrastructure#sthash.qfWIQ7eW.dpuf


Diamond in the Silver State

Stephen Cloobeck has been described as “the most explosive boss” in the history of the TV program “Undercover Boss.” He’s terrorized employees around the world and often calls his lieutenants at 2 a.m. just to make sure they’ll answer.

But there’s no debate that the founder and chairman of the board of Diamond Resorts International has built a business success story.

He recently opened his speech to a group of students at the UNLV Lee Business School with a showing of his appearance on the reality TV program. On several occasions during the filming, Cloobeck angrily blew his cover in advance of the “big reveal” to correct an error being made by one of his employees.

After the video, Cloobeck, with his distinct bravado delivery, didn’t pull any punches when he described his climb to the top of the timeshare industry.

Diamond Resorts International, headquartered in Las Vegas, is the second-largest timeshare company in the world, boasting more than 45,000 beds in nearly 330 destinations located in 34 different countries and serving more than 400,000 guests each year. The company operates three resorts in Las Vegas — the flagship Polo Towers along with the Desert Paradise Resort and The Carriage House.

To operate such a large enterprise, Diamond Resorts employs 15,000 team members worldwide. In Las Vegas, there are more than 1,800 team members that work in the corporate administration and reservation center located in two office buildings in Summerlin.

On July 19, 2013, Cloobeck rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange allowing the sale of the first shares of Diamond Resorts (NYSE: DRII), as a publicly traded company. During the initial offering, 15,500,000 shares of its common stock were available at a price of $14 per share. The stock has been trading at twice that price and the company recently reported its third quarter revenue had increased by $29.4 million (13.3 percent), to a total of $251.4 million. Net income increased by $10.6 million (40.3 percent), to $36.9 million.

According to the December 2014 filing with regulators, the company had an adjusted capitalization of $1.472 billion. Cloobeck has an estimated personal net worth of $100 million.

The backstory

To appreciate the company’s success, you first have to understand both the man and the history.

In 1983, Cloobeck graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychobiology. “I started out wanting to be a surgeon but after graduation decided that wasn’t for me. I should have gone to business school, but it wasn’t in the cards at that time,” said Cloobeck.

After college, he went to work for his father (a partner in the Jockey Club), selling time shares.

“I think I was 18, and I probably did a few things that I shouldn’t have done, but all I cared about was the split, the cash, closing the deal — but I learned a lot. I went into the shopping center development business and got my butt kicked a little bit and learned how to build,” said Cloobeck.

With the Jockey Club completely sold out and a need for expansion, Cloobeck came back to Las Vegas to help his father. At age 29 he designed and built the Polo Towers which opened New Year’s Eve 1993 as the first high-rise timeshare.

Cloobeck eventually bought all the shares in the Polo Towers and took over running the company. Starting with a negative $5 million, Cloobeck turned the Polo Towers into a huge success and, in 2004, he sold his majority interest in the company but kept his hand in the timeshare business by partnering with Wyndham on a couple of projects.

With time on his hands, Cloobeck seriously considered running for governor of Nevada in 2007, but instead purchased Sunterra Resorts, a struggling timeshare company, in a $700 million buyout. The acquisition brought a portfolio of 100 timeshares in 17 states and 13 countries along with more than 3,300 employees to the Diamond Resorts International brand.

Noting that Sunterra never had leadership with timeshare experience, Cloobeck went back to work, stating, “I plan on being an active CEO in running the company.”

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‘Capital lite’

Diamond Resorts International weathered the recent recession by building a robust and lean company, what Cloobeck calls “capital lite.” In addition, the company speaks 16 languages and has a proprietary technology system with the ability to run thousands of resorts with multiple currencies and multiple languages.

Since 2007, Diamond Resorts has acquired seven smaller timeshare companies that contributed to its growth. The most recent acquisition, in August, included Gold Key Resorts, which manages five vacation ownership resorts in Virginia Beach, Va., and one in Outer Banks, N.C., for $167.5 million.

When asked by a UNLV business student about the key to his success, Cloobeck replied that it is all about “communication and training.” He elaborated about how he gave every executive in his organization a Blackberry and told them that he wanted to see communication between all departments.

He admits that he would call people at two in the morning to see if they would answer their phone; if they didn’t answer they were fired.

“The resort business is 24/7 and 365 days a year, and it is a lot of work to be successful,” said Cloobeck.

However, on the subject of communication, he admitted that when people ask his secretary for a half-hour appointment with him, she tells them ‘good luck if you get 15 minutes’ claiming that he is too busy to listen to a lot of stories. “Besides,” said Cloobeck, “I have been in this business for over 25 years, I have forgotten more in the last two minutes then most of these people will ever learn.” He also commented that he quite often answers email correspondence with “Y,” “N” or “WTF.”

Cloobeck emphasized that customer service is very important and at each resort has introduced the catchphrase “the meaning of YES,” where each guest is entitled to what they need and expects his employees to go out of their way to provide that service. Likewise, Cloobeck doesn’t tolerate any abuse of his employees and has been known to call rude guests to tell them that they are no longer welcome at a Diamond Resorts property.

“When I did ‘Undercover Boss,’ it changed me forever being a CEO,” said Cloobeck. “Because you can go to your resorts and you can talk to your team members and they are not going to really tell you what is going on. So you really don’t have any idea what’s going on until you’re working at the resort.”

At the end of each of the two episodes, Cloobeck gave money and other generous gifts to employees in need. This prompted him to establish an “Employee Crisis Fund” to help any employee in their time of need. The fund was established with a $1 million personal contribution from Cloobeck and an additional $1 million contribution from the company. The fund is run by the human resources department, but the decisions are made by a committee of employees. So far, more than 250 employees have received benefits from the fund.

Tourism ambassador

In addition to Cloobeck’s duties as chairman of the board, he has also taken on the position of chairman of Brand USA, an organization tapped by Congress to promote the U.S. as a destination for international tourists. He describes this position as “like being the tourism minister.”

He speaks passionately about the work he does on America’s behalf, including a campaign he’s launched to make U.S. borders friendlier. “There is no reason our customs agents can’t do what they have to do to protect our borders and smile at the same time,” says Cloobeck, who wants the agents to say “Welcome to the U.S.” to all international arrivals.

Cloobeck, along with Steve Wynn, is also responsible for the “Strip Beautification Project” on Las Vegas Boulevard from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue. Now designated as a Nevada Scenic Highway, the project consists of 4.5 miles of streetscaping of the landscape medians on “the greatest midway in the world.” The project was completed in 1995 after more than 200 Strip frontage property owners unanimously approved the $13 million special improvement district project, which had no fiscal impact on individual Clark County taxpayers.

At the end of his UNLV talk, Cloobeck asked the students if they knew the most important asset on the balance sheet.

“The most important asset on your balance sheet is human capital. It’s actually not on a balance sheet, but it is your most import asset. You had better nurture it, you’d better train it, you’d better retrain it, and if people don’t work — get rid of them. Don’t be lazy — otherwise you create a cancer in the company,” stated Cloobeck.

In classic Cloobeck style, he declined a request for an interview after talking to the students.

 

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