The groundbreaking ceremony held last week at the new I-15 Exit 118 interchange was an exciting event and to paraphrase Mesquite Mayor Al Litman shows a ‘bright future for Mesquite’ and ‘a key player in our economic development efforts.’

And no one put it better than Wendy Kinney, RSC General Manager for Do It Best Corp. when she remarked at the ceremony that her company “been looking forward to this occasion for the 10 years we’ve done business in Mesquite.”

The interchange opens the door for new businesses to finally build in the Mesquite Technology and Commerce Center with a more efficient ingress/egress route than before. It will divert truck traffic from the Exit 120 roundabouts and make it safer for automobiles.

We’ve already had the first business purchase city-owned land in the area with a promise of at least 40 permanent jobs, perhaps eventually even more. That business and the new jobs won’t be the last.

Mesquite Regional Business, Inc. President George Gault has been actively marketing the MTCC to distribution and warehousing businesses as a prime location halfway between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Perhaps the best characteristic of the area is that it’s outside of Las Vegas. The new, more efficient interchange makes his job a lot easier.

One other obstacle that’s been holding Mesquite back from diversifying its economy is the lack of a workforce. That stands to drastically change in the next year with increased grant funding and new programs that will go a long way towards developing the workers businesses will need.

But that’s not all that bodes well for a brighter future in our valley.

Mesquite hit the one million mark in its visitor count in October, one month earlier than 2014 and two months earlier than 2013. That magic hurdle wasn’t even crossed in 2012, 2011, or 2010. Other numbers in the monthly Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports also show a steady climb towards an improving tourist industry.

Tourist numbers promise to grow even more when the Rising Star Sports Ranch opens in late 2016. City leaders and residents have been waiting almost 15 years for the moribund Mesquite Star to reawaken and brighten the east entrance to the city. But more than just being another hotel, which is fine-we need the heads in beds, the Rising Star will improve a dimension that many locals have been working on for years – becoming a sports mecca.

Those of us who scoffed several years ago at Mesquite becoming a soccer magnet have been proven wrong. Thousands of kids and their coaches, parents, siblings, and assorted relatives have become an important part of our local economy through the numerous soccer tournaments held each year at the local fields. The Rising Star promises to add a new facet to that by promoting training camps and other venues for young, and old, sports enthusiasts.

Golf is still an extremely important part of the fabric in Mesquite and will remain so. Soccer just adds to that.

There’s even more.

Building permits issued by the city are running about 200 more at this point in the calendar than last year. More importantly, new business permits are up 13 from last year. Yes, they may be rather small businesses at this point but so what. Business is business and we need to support them.

Even though permits for new single family homes have increased by only six from last year, the valuation of those permits are up by $5 million. In the lean years, almost all new home permits were issued to Sun City Mesquite. That’s good because it’s become an important part of Mesquite. But now we’re seeing other home builders increase the number of permits they need for new construction. New homes in the Canyon Crest are steadily increasing as are other residential areas, even in the older parts of Mesquite. And real estate sales of existing homes are steadily increasing compared to previous years.

For years people have complained about the decrepit appearance of the old part of town, namely Mesquite Boulevard. Have you noticed the renovation of the old Harley’s Garage that’s now a bustling new business? The brilliant (ugly) blue on the old NAPA building is now gone, replaced by a more pleasing color but more importantly, it’s a busy, busy place of business.

The old furniture store across from the phone company has been updated and houses a Sears store that seems to be doing well by the number of cars parked in front.

Slowly but steadily the area seems to be reviving.

There’s one other encouraging indicator, but not so obvious, that perhaps Mesquite is coming back, better than before.

At the November Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon they had to add extra tables for all the people that showed up. The October luncheon had a packed house. And the annual Chamber Christmas party saw a crowded room with overflowing goodwill.

Those are signs of how much the Chamber has improved over the last year thanks to the extremely hard work of its Board of Directors and new staff. They now seem to understand the importance of meeting the needs of their members foremost.

To answer the question of whether Mesquite is coming back –