Lessons Las Vegas Can Learn From the Rust Belt

rustbeltAn article in the Las Vegas Sun compares and contrasts Las Vegas to Detroit and other one industry towns.

These are Americans from the Rust Belt — the string of cities from the Northeast to the upper Midwest, whose industrial decline began after World War II and continues today.

Residents of places such as Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit have grown accustomed to the latest news. Another factory headed overseas. Another drive-by shooting in a forsaken part of town. A late-night comedian using the city as a punch line. And, perhaps most painfully, a friend, a neighbor, a son or a daughter joining hundreds of thousands of others and leaving town — usually for the Sun Belt.

Las Vegas residents could afford to look back on those cities, for many of them home, with an air of pity and smugness.

A combination of good weather, affordable homes, plentiful jobs, a live-and-let-live attitude and minimal taxes and regulation had created — seemingly — recession-proof prosperity.

Goodbye to all that.

The recession has hit here harder than just about anywhere else. The depressing data are familiar: Unemployment has topped 13 percent, and is much higher when part-time workers and those who have quit looking for work are included; Las Vegas has more foreclosures than any other large city in America, and our home values have utterly collapsed; the largest foreclosed commercial building in the country is on Las Vegas Boulevard, and, most shockingly, after being the fastest-growing city in America for the better part of two decades, a net of at least 28,000 people have left Las Vegas since summer 2007, according to recent estimates.

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