Restoring Prosperity: Repositioning Southern Nevada for the Next Economy

On April 5, Bruce Katz gave a speech on how southern Nevada can use its regional assets to strengthen innovation and help build a low-carbon, export-driven path toward the next economy.

Thank you, Neal, for that kind introduction and your inspiring leadership in difficult times.

In addition, I would like to thank Brian Greenspun, whose pride in Southern Nevada is infectious both in town, as well as at Brookings board meetings in Washington

And the Lincy Foundation, Lindy and Jeff, whose vision and resources have allowed my colleagues Rob Lang and Mark Muro to intensify the work they started in this region with the report “Mountain Megas” through the start-up of Brookings Mountain West and our deepened engagement at the Metropolitan Policy Program.

This has been an auspicious development for all of us.

As Nevada knows all too well, the “Great Recession” has been a wake-up call.

It unveiled an economy dangerously out of whack: frenzied with consumption, wasteful in its use of energy, more adept at increasing inequity than sharing prosperity, more successful at exacerbating, rather than easing, divisions between Wall Street and Main Street.

It is time to get back on track and lay the foundation for a radically different kind of growth both in Southern Nevada and in the nation.

In that spirit, I will make the following propositions:

First, the shape of the next American economy must be export-oriented, low carbon, and innovation-fueled.  This is a vision where we export more and waste less, innovate in what matters, produce and deploy more of what we invent.  This is the kind of productive and sustainable economy which must emerge from the rubble of this recession.

Second, Southern Nevada can play in the next economy, but this will require hard choices and a deliberate decision to move beyond an economy fueled by real estate consumption. Las Vegas has an important export strength (Yes, you export!) in its convening sector, strong international connections, solar and geothermal energy sources, and a growing set of efforts in renewable energy production. These strengths are augmented by the region’s proximity to Southern California.

Finally, to build the next economy, the United States must connect the macro vision to metro reality—the “Macro to the Metro.” We need to leverage the market energy and creativity found in metros like Las Vegas with smart, game-changing federal and state actions. And we need a full-court press on delivering an educated and skilled workforce, which can drive the next economy and must benefit from it. The next economy must be opportunity-rich as well as export-oriented, low carbon, and innovation-fueled.