Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2021

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The latest trend: Leaving Las Vegas

Outbound U-Hauls, empty homes reveal transformation


Sam Morris

Suzanne Ross is helped Friday by Rene Gray at a local U-Haul store. Ross says she’s moving to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., because she couldn’t find a permanent job here.

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Bob Bower, left, checks on a truck at the U-Haul store Friday for Larry Rhodes, an airplane mechanic who says he's being transferred because travel is down.

Building engineer Tyler Young moved to the Las Vegas Valley 22 years ago from Tucson. And now he’s returning home.

Young, 56, said he quit his job at the College of Southern Nevada because he grew tired of months of dealing with hostile managers and regular news of salary freezes and layoffs.

“If I’m going to be looking for another job, I’m going to live where I want to live,” Young says. “You need to go to a place where you can better yourself and have a future. Here, it’s just going down.”

Young is part of the new migration trend: Clark County is now losing population, according to county officials — 10,000 from July 2007 to July 2008, based on the number of empty houses and apartments.

U-Haul measures the trend a different way: Are there more trucks coming to town or leaving? In 2007, outbound U-Haul rentals just barely outpaced those arriving here, the company said. In 2008 the number of outbound rentals was 1 percent greater than that of those arriving.

Among those renting U-Haul equipment in recent days to leave town was Larry Rhodes — but it wasn’t his choice. He’s lived in the valley for 15 years, working as an airplane mechanic, and doesn’t want to move. He and his wife planned on retiring here.

But Rhodes, 59, said he is being transferred to Riverside, Calif., because air travel to Las Vegas is down. And if he wants to be employed next month, he has to move.

“You just have to deal with it,” Rhodes says crisply. “That’s all you can do.”

A lot of people who left town in U-Hauls were construction workers at Echelon, Boyd Gaming’s partially built $4.8 billion resort that was mothballed Aug. 1 for want of financing.

Over the following three weeks, Daniel Lazo recalls, construction workers flooded the U-Haul store he works at in Henderson. They were all antsy to find a new town flush with jobs. There weren’t enough trucks at that store to accommodate all of those aching for a one-way ticket out of Dodge, he says.

“If you’re a working man, you go where the work is,” says a 45-year-old woodworker, picking up a 40-foot trailer at a U-Haul store in North Las Vegas. He refused to identify himself, saying he feared retribution from his union.

He said he’s angry at Las Vegas, casino executives, just about everyone, because of the economic climate that is forcing him to move his and his wife’s belongings back to Chicago, four years after they moved to Las Vegas. They bought a home and have a few thousand dollars saved, he says, but he’s given up any hope of a future here. “I still have some money, but I’m not going to give it to this place,” he said.

Dan Harden, 30, a pipe-fitter who has been without work for four months, hoped to be among those abandoning Las Vegas, where he’s lived for seven years. He planned to move into a house with his mom in his native Los Angeles — until she lost her job. Their plans had to be scrapped. So he’s renting a trailer to move his belongings from an apartment he can no longer afford to an apartment he’ll share with a friend.

In the meantime, he’s still looking for a job.

Suzanne Ross, 56, on the other hand, is making a clean escape. She moved to the valley in March after getting caught up in the housing bubble that burst in Southern California. She chose Las Vegas because of its promise of jobs. But she couldn’t find a permanent job, just temporary positions at call centers — so temporary, she says, that two-month gigs were reduced to four weeks.

“I’m used to having a steady job,” she says. “But that’s not happening here.”

And so Ross found herself at a U-Haul south of the Strip, signing papers to rent a 26-foot truck. She’s moving in with her sister in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

As she left the building, she turned back to the U-Haul staff and customers waiting on line. “Have a happy new year!” she said cheerily. “Gotta be better than last year.”

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