New Chamber chairman sees stronger Las Vegas

Las Vegas has seen hard times before, and it will come out of the current recession stronger than before if business leaders work together, the new chairman of the board of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce said Thursday.

Chamber leader Kevin Orrock addressed the group after he and members of the group's 2012 board of trustees were sworn into office during a luncheon at the Four Seasons . A longtime Las Vegan, Orrock is executive vice president for development for the Howard Hughes Corp.

The century-old chamber was born in adversity after floods wiped out rail lines to the city in 1910, turning what was a dusty hamlet of 5,000 into a potential ghost town of about 1,000 residents, Orrock noted.

"We have been here before,'' Orrock said. "Las Vegas has faced tough times; and we came through it better, we came through it stronger and we came through it more resilient because we worked together.''

Chamber leaders championed highway construction, the Hoover Dam, McCarran International Airport, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the United Way and the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Orrock noted.

The result: a town on the edge of extinction blossomed into a world-class destination resort.

None of that would have happened had chamber members lacked the ability to think big and the guts to make things happen, he said.

Now, with unemployment and foreclosure rates leading the nation, the chamber's mission is to help the region's leaders create a shared vision of Las Vegas' future, particularly in light of recent economic development studies that recommend strengthening the area's core industry -- gaming and hospitality -- while also diversifying into other industries such as high technology, logistics and operations.

"It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to want to change,'' Orrock said.

It'll also take a change in mind set and money.

"Maximizing opportunities and truly diversifying our economy requires us to rethink and retool,'' Orrock said. "It won't come without a price tag, and not without developing a common vision."

The chamber will help create that vision, he pledged.

"The future of Las Vegas is a bright one, but not without challenges'' he said, adding that the Las Vegas business community will "prepare for the next 100 years by doing what we do best in Nevada -- Dream it. Build it. Do it."