I feel especially privileged for the trust you’ve placed in me as Chairman of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. Let me assure you of my eagerness to work alongside the talented staff at the Chamber who do so much to support and advance the causes of business, and manage almost daily events on behalf of our members and business partners.
As I assume the Chairmanship of this respected, long-standing and highly-influential business organization, let me take a moment to acknowledge Bill Noonan, outgoing Chairman. Bill, you and Sylvia have become close personal friends of Beverly and me and for that I thank the Chamber. I have witnessed and experienced the high level of attention and care you have given the Chamber and under your leadership, we are finishing-up one of our most successful years ever. Thank you, Bill, for your untiring dedication.
And now – if I could have the privilege of a personal moment before moving on. Many of you have come to know or have heard me talk about my wife Beverly. She is my best friend and the love of my life. For the last 31 years she’s been there to encourage me, support me, and drive me to be my best—both personally and professionally. It would be impossible for me to accept this new and important role without her at my side. Thank you, sweetheart, for your willingness to give up some of “our time” in 2018 for the Metro Chamber. I love you!
To my fellow Trustees—Thanks for your tenacious support of our mission. We’re here to serve the needs of our members and the success of their businesses. You’ve done that well. And together, over the next 12 months, we will continue to positively advance the interests of Nevada businesses.
To the Executive Committee—Thank you in advance for your partnership and counsel. Please accept my gratitude for your leadership of the Chamber cause. I’m speculating we’ll be huddled together in some very interesting meetings over the next twelve months and I’m really looking forward to it. No, really, I am.
To the Executive Leadership at Cox Communications—I can’t thank you enough for your support, confidence and encouragement as I take on the Chairman’s role. And a special thank you to John Wolfe – my boss and mentor. Even though, John could not be here today, I do want to thank him for the support he has offered me on this incredible ride.
To the many Chamber Members and Community Leaders here today — I admire your steady drive to move our vibrant regional economy forward on a daily basis. Thank you for your entrepreneurship, leadership and engagement.
And to Mary Beth Sewald — I want to offer you my personal Congratulations on becoming the 7th President and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. I am confidant – as is the rest of the Board of Trustees – that you’re the right leader, at the right time to advance the causes of Southern Nevada businesses. Through your vision and leadership, the Chamber will grow, prosper and continue to be the most relevant business organization not only in Nevada, but in the United States.
Ladies and gentlemen, community leaders, trustees, members and guests — I am truly honored to serve as the captain of Team Metro Chamber.
You know when I was a young sales executive at AT&T and later the vice president of business development at Lucent Technologies, I never imagined taking on a role like this. You know, this feels pretty good already. Of course, I also never imagined living in a city with a volcano, a pyramid and a huge castle but that is another story for another day.
As I think back to September 2009, I recall how excited Bev and I were about relocating to Las Vegas, and my opportunity to run Cox’s Southern Nevada commercial operations. However, the reality of the recession set in very quickly. I was truly shocked at seeing the high number of vacant strip centers and “going out of business signs” as I drove around Southern Nevada. The impact of the recession was much worse than I had thought. During that time, we were all asking, “When is this going to end?”
Now, 8 years later, our city has recovered and we are embarking on a new era. We are back in the game, and once again, putting points on the board.
As Las Vegas assumes heightened prominence through the celebrated arrival of major league sports, ever-deepening infrastructure and bold future prospects, it’s easy to root for the global city that is our hometown.
Think for a moment about how far we’ve come. Six years ago, Interstate-11 had yet to be designated. Hyperloop transportation was still a pipe dream. There were no plans for a UNLV School of Medicine. And the idea of a franchise sports team landing here seemed more fantasy than fact.
Now look at us. We’ve built I-11 to the Arizona border and have funding for transportation projects that will grow our economy. Hyperloop One recently took a 190-mile an hour spin on a test track not far from here. We’ve opened the doors to three medical schools. Bill Foley brought the Vegas Golden Knights to town—the first major league franchise team for our community and our state. And we’ll soon be cheering on the Las Vegas Lights soccer team, the Vegas Aces WNBA team, and can you believe it—the Las Vegas Raiders.
It’s this type of change that has helped us overcome hardship, rebuild a more resilient economy, and carry us through one of our darkest days.
We have come to know that day as One October, but we’ll remember it as the time we became – and will remain – Vegas Strong.
The iconic Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Las Vegas just didn’t happen. The global city that is our hometown has always been shaped by women and men who dreamed boldly, imagined the possibilities and rolled up their sleeves to make big things happen. Think of it this way: entrepreneurship is to Vegas as five NFL championships are to Lombardi.
The Metro Chamber of Commerce has always been in the middle of it all. It is where big thinkers have been combining their efforts and making things happen for decades. It’s where we support small business, ensure a strong pro-business climate, build consensus and shape our community.
And while I look back at our recent accomplishments with a sense of pride, it’s all about the future.
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is,” said Wayne Gretzky. “A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
And that begs the question…where are we headed?
My answer? Wherever the puck is going to be!
With a new CEO and Chairman, today marks a new season for the Chamber. Our 2018 game plan will involve first and foremost the Southern Nevada business community. We are the Chamber for all businesses – both Large and Small!! The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce belongs to you, our members and our number one priority is representing you.
In 2017, we saw some instances where others attempted to usurp the independence and decision-making autonomy of the Metro Chamber’s Board of Trustees and its committees. Let me be perfectly clear, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce will not be compromised in representing you, our members.
Our brand is strong. Our voice is independent. And our legacy of standing up for this community and our members is unmatched.
We’ll continue to be your voice locally, in Carson City, in Washington D.C. and wherever else the puck is headed. With our eyes set on the 2019 legislature, we will again convene the Southern Nevada Forum with our partners to establish community priorities for the coming years. This is teamwork at its best – and it truly moves the ball down the field.
Additionally, we need to ensure that elected officials are actually listening to the voice of business. That’s why the Metro Chamber will not only endorse and support pro-business candidates, but actively recruit candidates up and down the ballot. We want those individuals, who understand and appreciate the key role employers play in the state and local economy to win.
In 2018, our annual Washington, D.C. trip will continue to grow in size and stature. We understand the value and power of taking the entire Nevada business community, both North and South, on the road. Whether building relationships with key decision makers in Washington or standing strong for I-11 funding, the collective voice of Nevada’s Business communities will be loud and strong. The road to Phoenix won’t get done without the necessary federal funding. And it’s going to take continuous pressure from both states to make it happen.
We must pursue federal legislation against nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. We must make sure Southern Nevada receives its rightful share of anti-terrorism funding. And we must increase our funding of medical residencies to keep our medical students in Southern Nevada.
The Metro Chamber will be hyper-focused on supporting small businesses. Much like the community we serve, our organization is comprised mostly of small businesses, and rest assured we’ll work continuously to make sure their needs are met. Our Team cannot win unless small business succeeds and has the resources and wherewithal to grow, innovate and hire.
In 2018, we’ll be launching the Small Business Task Force. Its mission will ensure the Chamber continues a full court press in support of the benefits, expertise and resources needed by small businesses to grow and thrive.
And you can count on aggressive advocacy to reinstitute the Chamber’s Association Health Care Plans. This was a benefit many small employers relied on to help them provide affordable health care coverage for their employees and families. The Metro Chamber will actively insert itself in the Executive Order Rule Making Process to ensure these types of plans are reinstated along with their positive impact on small businesses throughout Nevada.
We will also be launching our new Mini-Expos that showcase small businesses to the community so they can get valuable market exposure and attract new customers.
And as Las Vegas continues to deploy more future-forward technologies through Smart City and Smart Gigabit Community initiatives, the Metro Chamber will work to make sure our small businesses are part of the game plan.
Finally, our Vegas Team needs strong leadership at every level. No community can truly thrive unless it develops its leadership capacity. For more than 30 years, the Chamber has been cultivating strong community leaders through Leadership Las Vegas. But the Chamber determined we needed another rung in the leadership ladder. That’s why we created the Leadership Foundation of Greater Las Vegas.
Through the Leadership Foundation, we’ll be launching a new program next year called Access Las Vegas. It’s designed to support C-Suite executives who are new to the Las Vegas area, need to quickly learn how our town works, and can get connected to other businesses and community leaders fast. Think of it as speed dating.
As I now turn my remarks toward the home stretch, I would like to share a personal vision for the Metro Chamber in 2018.
ACT NOW. BE BOLD. STAY TRUE.
We will ACT NOW under the leadership of Mary Beth Sewald as new President and CEO.
We will BE BOLD in our thoughts and actions to ensure a business climate that fosters growth and economic diversity.
And we will STAY TRUE to the mission of the Chamber to help both small and large Nevada businesses succeed, create jobs through educational opportunities and offer expertise designed to help business owners make smarter decisions, expand their purchasing power and boost their brand and visibility in Southern Nevada.
Let’s come together as players, coaches, managers and cheerleaders to ensure the ongoing success of our Chamber and the prosperity of our members.
2018 is going to be a winning season!