A New Day for North Las Vegas: Mayor John Lee

The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce sat down with John Lee, the new mayor of North Las Vegas. As a former business owner and State Senator, Lee has a unique and driven perspective on harnessing business opportunities in the North Valley and regionally expanding and diversifying the economy. As he takes office on July 1, his vision for a new day for North Las Vegas, a city beset by economic and financial hardships in last few years, begins to shape into reality.

BV: What are your plans for your first 100 days in office?

JL: Despite the challenges of the past, voters believe in our town, they want it to succeed and they voted for a new vision to take North Las Vegas in a new direction. During this transition period, I have been meeting with other council members to create an outline of the initiatives discussed during the campaign for the purpose of developing a policy blueprint for the next few years. It is critical to use the first 100 days to lay the foundation for the future.

We will begin by forming the Blue Ribbon F.A.C.T. Commission – Financial Accountability for Community Transparency – that will conduct an extensive top-down review of the city’s financial situation. North Las Vegas has a financial problem, and fixing any problem begins by carefully diagnosing the problem before prescribing the solutions. I believe the F.A.C.T. Commission will provide an essential report to establish exactly where we are and sound recommendations for a successful and strong recovery. Today is a new day for North Las Vegas.

BV: What is your vision for economic development in North Las Vegas?

JL: I learned a long time ago that success comes when you focus on the challenges two hours a day and focus on success the other twenty-two hours a day. Too often, politicians present nebulous and vague promises about economic development. We know that success in business doesn’t happen because we just talk about success; it starts when we pick a specific business, focus on it and work day and night to be successful.

We are going to be specific and aggressively focus on economic development opportunities in aerospace, logistics and healthcare. I believe intensely focusing on strategies that target specific industries will ultimately ensure the growth of all businesses. We are going to leverage our location along I-15 to attract logistics and manufacturing, use our Nellis Air Force Base to attract defense contractors and leverage the new VA Hospital to grow a much needed healthcare sector. Focusing on specific industries encourages accountability and establishes a business identity that serves to attract within the specific industry as well as secondary and tertiary support businesses.

BV: What do you feel are your biggest challenges and opportunities as you take office?

JL: I will be focusing on four challenge areas – our image, communication inside and outside the institution, the financial crisis and community unity. Everyone knows North Las Vegas has suffered through a very difficult time where divisive and ineffective leadership combined with poor decisions and bad financial planning created a perfect storm that nearly destroyed our town. Any recovery attempts have been framed in the problems of the past and mired by yesterday’s news.

Unfortunately, we have been focusing too much on the difficulties in every opportunity, whereas our success comes from focusing on the opportunity in every difficulty. Opportunities are never lost; someone else gets them. Our challenges are also our greatest opportunities. I know that challenges of the past are our opportunities and successes of the future. Success is the fruit of opportunity grounded in the soils of difficulty.

BV: North Las Vegas has significant financial hardships and has not always had a positive image as a city. How do you plan to address the city’s financial hardships and improve the image of the city?

JL: Today is a new day. Voters decided to close the door to our past and open a new door to the future. Our first step will be addressing our financial situation through an independent and thorough review of our city’s financial situation. We must push the “reset button” and remove the cloud of uncertainty created by past decisions, because today is a bright and clear new day!

The council's Blue Ribbon F.A.C.T. Commission will be an independent commission composed of city stakeholders, financial experts from the Governor’s office, accounting professionals and community leaders. The commission will put everything on the table and thoroughly go through city finances and policies line by line. The commission will have a mandate to return and report to council by December 1, with its conclusions consisting of the financial condition of the city, recommendations for changing or adopting new policies and procedures, and recommendations for implications of best practices.

BV: As a business owner, how do you think the City of North Las Vegas can promote itself and its assets to attract new businesses and industries?

JL: The F.A.C.T. Commission will help establish a trusted baseline of the financial condition of the city, and assist in the implementation of policies to repair North Las Vegas and ensure a prosperous future. Certainty in the condition and direction of the city will help businesses invest in our community. North Las Vegas is made up of smart and visionary business leaders, passionate and effective community activists, talented and experienced professionals, and other citizens capable of doing great and wonderful things.

The challenge is harnessing all these qualities and focusing them on our town’s success. We are already forming groups around each of the three economic development areas and will be creating a governance structure within city government to promote and attract new opportunities to support these areas. All businesses will know that North Las Vegas, the home of Nellis Air Force Base, is open for business!

BV: How will you align the four wards in North Las Vegas, and how does that fit in on a regional level?

JL: We must have a regional strategy. I believe all roads to our valley’s success travel to and through North Las Vegas. We will be a regional partner that is a self- sufficient team player committed to regional cooperation and growth. Our history of not playing well with others is just that – history! I will seek win-win regional solutions that promote long-term shared successes, not short-term individual victories.

BV: One of the Metro Chamber’s priorities is the designation of Tule Springs as a national monument. How will the designation help economic development and diversification efforts, as well as revitalize the area?

JL: I believe Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is not only culturally and historically significant, but has the potential to provide a positive economic effect on our city. A large portion of the national monument borders residential real estate on the mountain’s bench, with sweeping views on the valley at night with federally protected mountain views during the day. The monument is a unique urban monument providing opportunities for our region’s underserved urban populations to visit and learn while at the same time attracting millions of park visitors to our city.

BV: You have identified infrastructure and transportation as two priorities of yours. What are the most pressing needs, in terms of infrastructure and transportation, in North Las Vegas?

JL: I have identified logistics as a priority. Our prime industrial real estate location next to I-15 positions North Las Vegas to be a regional leader in transport, distribution and operations. The proposed I-11 to Phoenix will further position our city to be a national leader in logistics and operations. Completion of North 5th, the NLV Expressway, will be an important road connecting our community and moving visitors through our town toward the entrance of Tule Springs National Monument.

BV: How do you see the Metro Chamber and the North Las Vegas business community aligning and working together for the future of North Las Vegas?

JL: Within days of winning the election I met with business leaders and the Metro Chamber to begin discussions on how we can work together. In the next few months, we will be unveiling an ambitious strategy of cooperation that will include innovative private-public partnerships and programs to maximize the relationship between the two institutions and establish North Las Vegas as the place to conduct business in the valley.

BV: You also supported streamlining the business licensing process. As Mayor, what steps need to be taken to make these streamlined processes happen?

JL: As a state Senator, I wrote the bill to centralize and streamline the business licensing process. As Mayor, I will further implement the legislation so that businesses can obtain licenses for all municipalities in one simple stop. Newly Elected Councilman Issac Barron is spearheading an effort to streamline the business licensing and permitting processes at City Hall and make the processes more efficient and business friendly. Throughout the valley, there really is limited space for large businesses to relocate – except North Las Vegas. Our region depends on our ability to accommodate and help businesses succeed. I want our businesses to concentrate on job creation not government regulation. I want them to be healthy and profitable, because when they succeed we ALL succeed. Today is a new day; it is the first day of our community’s bright future. North Las Vegas is New Las Vegas and we are open for business!