Urban development director sees opportunities for growth in technology, health care in Vegas

Business owners who move to Las Vegas frequently praise the city as “business-friendly.”

And that’s not just code for favorable tax structure.

“One of the big things that Nevada has beyond a favorable tax structure is governmental support at all levels,” says Ryan Smith, acting economic and urban development director for the City of Las Vegas. “If you are a company looking to expand into Nevada, the access to government both at a state and local level is unparalleled.

Ryan Smith

“We often also act as a liaison between businesses and developers with other departments in the city. We strive to find a reasonable way to ‘yes.’ ”

Vegas Inc caught up with Smith to ask about cultivating themed business districts, the resources available to business owners at city hall, COVID-19 and more.

A lot of businesses had to close down because of the pandemic. Are they mostly reopening now, or being replaced? And if they’ve been replaced, how is that changing the feel of the community?

I believe it’s a mix of both. The pandemic had significant impacts on the business community, but one of the bright spots is the entrepreneurial spark that was a result of it. According to data from the Census Bureau, Americans filed paperwork to start 4.3 million businesses last year. There have also been a flood of new residents and businesses that have been attracted to Vegas due to remote work and not having to be tethered to traditional high-cost-of-living, ultra-congested areas. In August, filing locations counts increased year over year by 12.6% in Clark County.

Explain the city’s role in helping to shape the business landscape.

The city has a great team that acts as a springboard for businesses. Las Vegas is a city full of entrepreneurs, and as the government, we want act as a tool box for them to build their business. Our team works with businesses to assist with various functions such as business licensing, permitting, incentives within our redevelopment area and other areas of municipal assistance.

Give us the Cliff’s Notes version of what it takes to get a business up and running in the city.

Las Vegas is a melting pot of cultures and opportunity. There might not be a short version of how to get your business up and running in the city, but there is a multitude of resources to help with the process, ranging from state resources such as Nevada’s Department of Business and Industry to UNLV’s Small Business Development Center. These resources help business through incorporation, business licensing, funding and scaling.

We have an Arts District and Brewery Row. What’s the next theme we can look forward to the city cultivating?

Two big opportunities are health care and technology. We have our Medical District and Innovation Center, but many cities often have certain distinct areas within those districts, such as Medical Miles and Tech Alleys. As we continue to grow these industries, something like that could easily happen. We have seen Brewery Row act as an anchor for new business growth in the Arts District.

How do these districts benefit specific business owners?

These districts lay down the foundation for a thriving economy. They house a portfolio of amenities that people love. If you have great amenities, you can bring in great talent, and that is a key catalyst in growing out the business environment here. They also provide opportunities for businesses to cluster and become more identifiable in the community.

Has “normal” forever changed, or will you aim to get back to what normalcy was pre-COVID?

Most likely we will land somewhere in between what normal was pre-COVID and what it is now. There are trends like remote or flexible work and an acceleration in e-commerce and digital products. As a city, we are very forward-looking and are going to ensure that whatever the future of normal is, that we are best prepared to handle it.

How did the pandemic change your outlook on business?

The pandemic has made people rethink business from all angles. There are still challenges and hurdles that all business owners are facing, ranging from severed supply chains to labor shortages. Ultimately, adaptation and technology are the name of the game and going forward; the most successful businesses will be the ones that are able to adapt and leverage technology to best provide value to their customers.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

One of my first bosses said: “If you want to be successful in business, just shut up and listen.” I think about that often and the intent was keeping an open mind and understanding that you can learn something from anyone or any situation if you just listen. It really drove me to value empathy and continuous learning.

Anything else you want to tell us?

There is so much opportunity in Las Vegas right now. We are still a young city in comparison to the United States. We are laser focused on providing great customer service. I also wanted to give out my direct phone number in case anyone is interested in bringing their business or project to Las Vegas (702-229-3268).

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

Maria Flores

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