Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 4:49 p.m.
To the naked eye, Las Vegas business is big and diversified. But to the statisticians at the Brookings Institution, and what we actually make, it is the exact opposite. Not like a cocktail. Like a Chrysler.
In the recent report “Locating American Manufacturing,” Brookings found that our metro area ranks 97th out of the 100 biggest U.S. cities for manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the employment pie—2.4 percent compared to the national average of 8.5 and 17.8 for No. 1 city Wichita, Kansas (though LA wins for the overall number of manufacturing jobs at more than 500,000 compared to our less than 20,000).
So what do we make? According to Brookings: “Miscellaneous; Food; Printing.” Hoping for a translation, I dug for info online. Unfortunately, the Nevada Industrial Directory has been suspended since April 1, 2004 (someone tell the Chamber of Commerce it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke), and Manta.com lists Drty Industries (don’t dare Google that), Egg Fantasy (florist) and a company that deals in “herb” inhalers.
Thanks to the digital Yellow Pages (obsolete schmobsolete), I know that Las Vegas makes custom golf carts and fake grass to drive them on. We make salad dressing and glowing displays for booze and a jet-black KISS guitar. Of course, we make card shufflers and coin hoppers and equipment for restaurants and salons. Hankering for a “nutritional popsicle” or a crazy casino staircase? No problem. We may not have the numbers, but as usual, we have the coolest niche.
After Kraft and Wish-Bone, Ken’s is the biggest manufacturer of salad dressing in the U.S. The Las Vegas plant churns out major liquid tonnage in the form of dressings, sauces and marinades for the brand, which gets its name from a 71-year-old steakhouse in Massachusetts that made dressing so good the locals begged for it to be bottled. Thanks to them, we have hundreds more manufacturing jobs—and the line on a secret stash if the world ever suffers a ranch shortage.
You know those sleek holders for ice cream cones and pool cues that you see in Strip restaurants and nightclubs? You can’t just buy those at Cash & Carry. The best displays are custom designed and fabricated, and Welch has a dozen years of experience making everything from an ice tray lined with LED lights to a custom KISS guitar case lined with crushed purple velvet. And they can build one piece or thousands.
They can’t sell to individual customers, but they sell to casinos worldwide in spades (zing!). One of many hot products is the i-Shoe Auto, which shuffles and digitally reads the ranks and suits of cards as they are dealt for baccarat, making it harder for players to cheat and easier for dealers to avoid repetitive stress injuries to them and to the cards. It may look like a DustBuster, but it works like the dickens.
Asahi Seiko USA
Think of any machine that takes or dispenses anything—gift cards, parking vouchers, Cheetos. This American branch of the Tokyo-based company makes it all.
From a manufacturing foundation of sublingual liquid vitamins, this company has expanded its capabilities to include “lipozomes, emulsions, colloidal mineral solutions, aloe vera drink concentrates, Noni, liquid vitamins and liquid minerals, liquid weight loss products, various homeopathic products, sports and nutrition gels, liquid animal nutritional products, liquid proteins, liquid melatonin, DHEA, nutritional popsicles and any other products in liquid form.” We don’t have the faintest idea what Noni is, but knowing they can make “any other products in liquid form” is pretty impressive. How about some actual liquid courage?
For the school-builder or the discerning owner of old cars jacked up without wheels in the side-yard (kidding), these concrete blocks are choice. And the business is family-owned and operated to boot.