Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | 5:57 p.m.
The new president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce says the chamber would take a leadership role to bring the community together to pull Las Vegas out of the Great Recession.
Matt Crosson, former president of the Long Island Association, New York's largest business association, told chamber members at a lunch today that the chamber would bring business and labor leaders and educators together to chip away at some of the problems that face Southern Nevada -- a lack of economic diversification, high unemployment and a poor education system among them.
It was Crosson's first public address in Southern Nevada and his remarks were warmly received by the more than 200 chamber members attending the lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel.
"We are going to have the capacity and resources and the opportunities to take advantage to not just be Las Vegas again but to be one of leading economic forces in the United States because this is where growth is going to happen again," Crosson said. "This is where the future of the United States is going to happen. This is where prosperity is going to happen again. If we all work together we're going to make that happen."
Crosson said some of the economic woes being experienced in Southern Nevada are similar to those that occurred in the Long Island area, where aircraft manufacturer Grumman was a major employer and more than 90,000 jobs were lost in the 1980s and '90s.
Crosson said the solution was to diversify the economy and it started with meetings of all the community's shareholders -- even those who didn't get along with each other politically.
That, he said, is what has to happen in Southern Nevada and why he wants representatives of diverse backgrounds to come together to solve the area's economic problems. He said bringing together various organizations doesn't mean the chamber intends to compromise on any of its stances on taxes and educational accountability.
"You start with the premise when you get everybody together that we're all here and we're all in the same boat, we're going to disagree about things, but let's set the disagreements outside the door," Crosson said in an interview following his presentation.
"Let's focus on what we can agree upon," he said. "If you're not really prepared to do that and want to fight old battles or fight future battles, then really don't be a part of the process because we can't have the process derailed by disagreement. Once we set the ground rules, then we can overcome the stuff that breaks groups apart."
Crosson said the chamber would continue to take leadership stances on certain political and economic issues.
"We're not going to compromise on things we think are integral to the economic future of the community," he said. "That doesn't mean we're not open to discussing everything. We should be open to discussing everything. And we should be able to articulate our position simply and clearly and listen to what other people have to say. But to say in advance that we would compromise on this or that package, I wouldn't do that.
"We've got to start with the premise that we have problems and the only way we're going to solve those problems is for every good head and cool head to come together and work cooperatively toward a productive end. If everybody accepts that, you can make progress and then you deal with the issues as they come along."
Crosson said he hopes to get representation from educators and labor leaders - groups the chamber has sparred with on issues in the past. He also hopes to tap the brainpower of UNLV, the Brookings Institution and the Nevada Development Authority.
Crosson is optimistic about Southern Nevada's recovery from the recession because Las Vegas is populated with so many creative and entrepreneurial people, he said. He cited Zappos.com for having "the most creative work environment by far I've ever seen," and he also was impressed with the architecture on display at CityCenter.
Crosson also said the local business community has to go into the process with optimism.
"It's all about attitude," he said. "The community needs to believe that we are coming back from this recession."