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Las Vegas Demographics Mirror Future For U.S.

More and more Californians are calling Nevada home, and Las Vegas has become the 30th most populous metropolitan area in the U.S. 

That’s according to a new survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, which released data that shows how Las Vegas has changed over the last five years.  

The numbers also show Southern Nevada becoming much more diverse, a trend that some experts say is indicative of the future for the U.S.  

Robert Lang, an urban affairs expert at Brookings Mountain West, told KNPR's State of Nevada that some of the same drivers of growth that were in play in the 90s and early 2000s are still in play now. 

“It is a virtuous position to be in because we’re the receiver of a lot of people, we’re not the sender of a lot of people," he said, "There’s lots of good reasons to come to Nevada and lots of people are still showing up.”

He said that Southern Nevada is built for growth and can sustain the current levels. However, there are some areas that he believes could be improved on to make the region even more attractive and ready to receive more people.

For instance, the state's higher education system could be improved and he thinks the state needs to funnel more tax incentive packages to Southern Nevada instead of Northern Nevada.

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“We’re growing lopsided,” he said.

Lang pointed out that the income growth in Northern Nevada has been much higher as new technology companies set up shop. However, he also pointed out that Southern Nevada generates the majority of tax revenue for the state, which means the tax incentives used to lure those tech companies North came from taxes paid in Southern Nevada.

If the state doesn't offer tax packages for the South, Lang would like it to at least give the southern part of the state more economic development tools.

"If you're not going to invest in us in tax capacity, could we have an economic development tool that reflects the size of the region and its opportunity?" he said.

Lang said UNLV is already way ahead of the University of Nevada, Reno when it comes to economic development efforts and the state needs to better support that.

Nevada's changing demographics are already having an impact on the state's politics, he said. He pointed out the Latino vote made a huge impact in the Midterm elections, citing the fact that both of Nevada's Senate seats are held by people from Clark County, which has a strong minority population and is on its way to being a minority-majority county.

As far as the future of Southern Nevada goes, Lang believes if there isn't a major problem with the national economy, the region's growth will keep going.

“If we don’t go into this deep recession, you would see a lot of this growth sustain itself,” he said.

And as the region grows and is seen by the rest of the country as a large, diverse urban center instead of just a gambling town, Lang believes Las Vegas will be a leader in a variety of industries, including business services and possibly technology. 

Guests

Robert Lang, executive director, Brookings Mountain West 

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