Las Vegas Sun

March 26, 2019

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Guest column:

Creating business-friendly environment is a political duty

As mayor of North Las Vegas, I have worked tirelessly over the past three years to transform our regional economy and turn our community into an emerging high-tech innovation hub. Our city, region and state have worked together to overcome institutional barriers, regional silos and parochial differences to create a welcoming atmosphere attractive to companies looking to locate where they can partner with government to do business.

When I took office, I inherited a city with a serious revenue problem. Instead of raising taxes, we decided to grow our tax rolls by attracting new businesses to build on our large tracts of open land. But the most promising area for future business development, Apex Industrial Park, had one major problem: It lacked the basic infrastructure needed for businesses to operate. Economic experts told us that developing the 18,000-acre industrial park could create more than 116,000 jobs and create an economic impact of over $193 billion in our region.

We set out a simple plan: Create an environment welcoming to businesses, develop innovative financial tools to encourage private sector investment in infrastructure, and go out and recruit companies.

Since then, North Las Vegas has experienced a meteoric turnaround, and we are succeeding because we went out there and made it happen. By eliminating red tape, making customer service paramount and applying innovative, out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems, we reshaped our city and created a business-friendly environment that now is paying dividends with job creation, economic diversification and opportunity for our residents.

Our team’s results in attracting businesses speak for themselves: Half a dozen Fortune 500 companies including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon and Fanatics are relocating and expanding in our city; Hyperloop One located in North Las Vegas and in less than a year already is expanding to support the fast pace of its work on a revolutionary transportation system; The Honest Co. is building a new distribution center for its West Coast fulfillment; 10 million square feet of commercial development is under construction; and almost $200 million of industrial construction work has been permitted this year alone.

During the 2015 legislative session, we worked closely with Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick (then a member of the Assembly) to pass a bill to create a financial mechanism encouraging private-sector financing in public utilities. Even with all of our economic development successes, we still needed that one big business that could be the much needed catalyst for investing and building the infrastructure necessary to open the regional opportunity and promise of Apex.

So we hit the street and went out and found electric car manufacturer Faraday Future to locate in Apex. Faraday was the tool for our industrial park’s infrastructure development. With a production car to be unveiled at CES in three weeks and phase two of construction of the company’s $1 billion manufacturing plant set to begin at Apex in February, Faraday remains on track to bring 13,500 jobs and over $87 billion in economic impact to our region.

A tremendous amount of cooperation and effort between the city, county and state has gone into welcoming Faraday to Nevada. Faraday is a startup, and like any startup, the company is in a constant cycle of building, fundraising and growing. Questioning Faraday’s motives, defaming its founder and financier, and trashing the company’s efforts won’t help Faraday achieve its goals. Absurd comments made by political opportunists are not helpful and are contrary to the cooperative efforts successfully transforming our region. Plus, that isn’t how we Nevadans treat people!

Whether Faraday ultimately succeeds, the company has invested over $120 million in our local economy and has already provided jobs for hundreds of our working families. Our governor and Legislature understood Faraday’s transformative potential, and after carefully weighing the risks and vetting the opportunity, they put extensive safeguards in place to protect taxpayers by purposefully structuring a framework of tax abatements to be earned as the company hits set investment benchmarks. The infrastructure is backed by landowner equity, and there are cash reserves and capitalized interest built in for years of protection. The only one at risk, should the Faraday project fail, is Faraday Future.

Successful economic development requires cooperative partnerships. Businesses need to know that they can come to Nevada, pioneer new products and technologies, and not get repeatedly and publicly lambasted. Our support of Faraday shows that Nevada and the city of North Las Vegas are willing to partner with innovators and entrepreneurs.

Rooting for the failure of a private company that is investing hundreds of millions of its own dollars in our economy is damaging to all of us. What message does that send to other businesses looking at Nevada as a potential home base to create and innovate?

Anyone can point out problems. Real leaders work together to find solutions, and fortunately, several leaders in our state have stepped up to do exactly that. By executing our plan of creating an environment welcoming to businesses and by developing innovative financial tools to encourage private-sector investment in infrastructure, we have successfully recruited multiple Fortune 500 companies, technology startups and warehousing and distribution centers that are bringing more than 20,000 jobs and over $100 billion in economic impact to our region, providing our residents a bright and prosperous future.

John Lee is mayor of North Las Vegas.

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