...I'm amazed at the signs of continual growth. One example: As I look out my hotel room window at 3:00 in the morning (yup, typical first night away from home -- can't sleep even though I'm exhausted) I see lights that extend as far as my tired eyes can see, and there are construction projects seemingly everywhere.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and I understand the attraction of the West. Certainly that brings people to Las Vegas. Obviously there are other reasons. But I wonder for how long this city can sustain this growth.
Las Vegas was one of the cities hit hard by the housing bubble; and if the attendance at the convention for which I'm here is any sign, then the 2009 convention numbers are going to slide. The latest news reports suggest unemployment is not slowing down. At the same time, there appears to be plenty of vacant office space. Funding cuts to the state's public universities (including nearby UNLV) will erode faculty confidence.
No, what is happening here is not staying here (in a feeble play off the advertising slogan for the city's gaming, casino and other [ahem] adult opportunities); other cities -- especially in the West and the South -- are dealing with the same combination of issues.
I don't know if Las Vegas is capable of sustaining its growth. I also wonder if it has the resources. (Owing to the 20 years I spent in southern California, I know that water issues are never far from the surface almost everywhere in this part of the country.) And does it have the infrastructure? Traffic in this city seems to always be a nightmare.
This city does have a charm about it. Perhaps I'm biased because of the years I spent in Los Angeles, but there is an excitement about the western part of the U.S. that I've not found in the other places I've been fortunate to call home. When you get past the garish nature of the Las Vegas Strip, you find signs of "normal" life. When I stepped off the airplane yesterday I was eager to once again see this city, which I've come to like after many visits.
But I don't live here (and wouldn't want to), and so I wonder if this oasis in the desert can remain one of America's booming cities.
UPDATE: A new report today confirms that Las Vegas (and to a greater extent Nevada) is not enjoying good economic times. This state is one of the top four nationally in foreclosures.