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Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 | 5:42 p.m.
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee coined a new term — “skeptomistic” — two years ago to describe his cautious hope for the struggling suburb facing financial ruin.
The situation was dire: North Las Vegas was embroiled in a $152 million budget deficit and at risk of a state takeover. The new mayor worried about whether the city’s plans for recovery would be enough to pull North Las Vegas out of its financial crisis spawned by the recession.
If that was one of Lee’s low points as mayor, his 2016 State of the City address today could be considered one of his high points — a celebratory speech thanks to deals inked late last year to bring transportation startups Faraday Future and Hyperloop Technologies to Apex Industrial Park.
“Today we have a purposeful revolution going on in the city of North Las Vegas that did not happen by accident,” Lee said in a ballroom at Texas Station, where he delivered his address. “Our revolution has led to opportunities for advanced manufacturing to transform how people look at our city.”
On top of business development, the city has slashed its budget deficit to less than $23 million and increased its bond ratings, Lee said. The first-term mayor, who was plagued by controversies last year, including an ethics complaint and an unsubstantiated child-porn allegation, appeared to fire back at his critics by pointing to the city’s recent successes.
“I make no apologies for the decisive, direct and purposeful actions we have taken to save our city and make today’s transformation possible,” he said.
Instead, Lee reiterated his goal to diversify the north suburb’s economy. Apex, the virtually empty 18,000-acre site in the northeast valley, will be a key part of the equation.
Gov. Brian Sandoval convened a special session of the Legislature in mid-December to create a robust tax-incentive package to seal the deal with Faraday, an electric-car startup that plans to build a 3-million-square-foot manufacturing plant at the industrial park. Last week, the Governor’s Board of Economic Development approved the $215.9 million tax package for Faraday.
Tony Nie, senior vice president of Faraday Future, attended the State of the City address, and Lee called him a “wonderful partner for our community.”
In addition, Hyperloop Technologies — which hopes to revolutionize transportation with high-speed, solar-powered travel in aluminum pods through an almost-frictionless tube — is building an open-air test track on 50 acres at Apex.
Now that a utility infrastructure will be built at Apex, it paves the way for the growth of the expansive industrial site, Lee said.
“Because of its scope and impact, Apex has consumed the spotlight and occupied headlines — sometimes overshadowing many of the other important projects and innovative programs City Hall is delivery,” he said.
To that end, Lee outlined a number of other programs and development projects occurring in North Las Vegas:
• Design plans for how to provide access from Interstate 15 to 1,100 acres of undeveloped land near the Speedway should be complete by the end of the year, with construction following next spring.
• The city hopes to soon announce companies that will bring “high-quality jobs” to the property around the VA Medical Center, which officials envision as a center for medical research.
• The Villages at Tule Springs, a large-scale residential development project formerly known as Park Highlands, will break ground next month for its first phase of construction.
• Seven firefighters, four corrections officers and 28 police officers have been hired in an effort to bolster the community’s safety.
• Operation VET, a program designed to train disabled veterans for employment, has resulted in one veteran being hired. Other veterans are being interviewed.
• Short- and long-term goals for all parts of North Las Vegas will be developed through the Lift All Neighborhoods Together Initiative.
The mayor devoted much of his speech thanking city staffers, elected officials and a wide variety of residents for their help along the way.
Lee acknowledged that more work is on the horizon given the city’s lingering financial challenges, but he offered this closing assessment: “North Town is dead. North Las Vegas is alive and well.”