Two weeks ago I attended an economic round table headed up by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. I heard nothing new at this meeting other than that the new director would be assisting rural communities more than what we have received in the past, which, by the way, has been virtually nothing.
Mesquite is no different than many other small cities in Nevada and in other states. We lack affordable housing, a trained workforce, and childcare facilities for our working families.
We are at a crossroads in planning for our future. We need solutions to these issues and we need them soon if we are to take advantage of the growing prosperity in America.
We need to be realistic, first about our workforce. We graduate less than two hundred young people a year from our only high school. It’s a small number, but considering our population demographics, it’s about average. Some of these kids will go to higher education, a few to the military, some will enter the workforce with no special skills, and some will not do anything, at least for awhile.
Mesquite has a low unemployment rate, which is good. However, with the low unemployment rate we have very few candidates for the workforce. Small business should do all right as they don’t need a lot of employees. Larger companies like our three major casinos, our marijuana business, and our one large manufacturing company are in competition for labor.
We need to import labor from nearby communities such as St. George, Las Vegas, and North Las Vegas. The problem is we can’t because we lack affordable housing and childcare. With the cost of transportation, lack of childcare, and little or no places to either rent or buy, workers can not afford to move to Mesquite unless they are making considerably more than what our labor force currently receives. I’m not talking about big jumps in the minimum wage to achieve that goal. If two in a family are working full time and each is earning twelve dollars an hour, they would take home about three thousand a month. With a two -bedroom apartment averaging $1000.00 a month before utilities, that couple will be spending nearly 40% of their income on rent. Add in insurance transportation costs, etc., and childcare if they can find it, and you can see their financial condition.
We have been meeting with potential developers, but to date have not seen much in the way of results. Builders are very busy in our surrounding communities as I stated before, affordable housing is needed everywhere.
I don’t have the answers, but I have some ideas that we can throw around and perhaps find the answers to move forward. I know we can’t compete with Las Vegas, but our city has so much to offer young families. Low crime, good schools, a wholesome environment to raise a family.
To quote from the Las Vegas Review Journal, “ Lawmakers gave the affordable housing market a boost with incentives that could help spark more projects for low-income Nevadans”. Senate Bill 103, which will take effect July1, authorizes local governments to reduce certain fees for affordable housing projects. We need to immediately promote this to builders! In addition, we need to find every incentive we can on our own. There are other bills that were passed to also assist in these projects. We need to get in line quickly to take advantage of these important pieces of legislation.
In my next article I will address childcare in Mesquite and some ideas I have for bringing this badly needed service to Mesquite. Yes, we have some serious issues, but I know we can solve them if we stop talking about them so much and do something, even if it’s outside the box. If there is a will, there must be a way.