Michael Morton's new Project M. (Photo: Chelsea McManus Courtesy of Vegas.Eater.com")

Back in the summer it was announced that Michael Morton was going to be bringing a Mexican restaurant concept to downtown Las Vegas that would be located next to Commonwealth (you can read more about it by clicking on the image above or reading the CityLife article here)… the plans were recently approved and you can check them out: 6th Street Restaurant.


I’m happy to see that they are incorporating patio seating – something that adds to the feeling and ambiance of the area and, other than Vanguard, hasn’t been utilized much.

Looking forward to seeing this one open next year!

There were so many positive articles about the Las Vegas economy this week that it made more sense to put them here rather than try to tweet them all!

Industry leaders see Nevada economy improving in 2013

Las Vegas new-homes sales jump 34.5 percent in April

Las Vegas house prices up as inventory shrinks

Sharpened interest, bidding wars send up Las Vegas home prices

Nevada moves to No. 3 in foreclosure ranking

Nevada no longer foreclosure capital of United States

Nevada unemployment hits three-year low; Las Vegas numbers up

Developers begin next construction phase for SkyVue’s 500-foot wheel

Nevada economy yields more revenue for state 

Nevada gaming revenues up 6.1 percent to $855.7 million in April

Insert Coin(s) opens tonight!! I heard about the concept a few months and have been anxiously awaiting it’s arrival… the general idea is a mash up of a nightclub, arcade, and LAN party. This RJ article goes into greater detail and you can check out their website here.

I love that they decided to plant their feet on Fremont Street in the heart of downtown. The concept will be right at home in the area and is sure to benefit from the Zappos move next year. They had a special pre-launch party for Zappos employees and Twitter followers (@insertcoinslv) last night… unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend.

Here is a promo vid:
Insert Coin(s) Promo Vid

You might be asking yourself what the photo above has to do with the title of this post… keep reading and I promise it will all make sense by the end.

I came across an interesting article earlier this week that talked about a study conducted by the National Association of Realtors that found the following:

– 56 percent of American home buyers would choose a “smart growth” community (characterized by mixed-use development, multimodal transportation, walkability and a general downtown sort of vibe) over the single-use, car-centered suburban model that has dominated North American urban growth since the 1950s

– An even larger majority — 77 percent — say they look for the pedestrian infrastructure long absent from suburbia such as wide sidewalks when shopping for a new home

– 59 percent would swap square footage for a shorter commute

– 88 percent valued neighborhood quality over home size

– 50 percent wanted better public transit instead of more new roads

This points to a shift in trends and values over the past… which could be a key to success for downtown Las Vegas. We’ve seen that the downtown high rises can be successful when the prices make sense now that those condos are being rented out ($1-2,000/ month rent makes more sense than the $600k-2M purchase prices that they were fetching at the peak). The John S. Park neighborhood is great area with a ton of old town character and within walking distance of the downtown scene.

These areas are drawing people back in that are tired of the cookie cutter suburban homes that make up the Las Vegas valley. There is a different vibe and energy going into the area and I am excited to see where it goes in the next 5-10 years.

Is the area still a little rough around the edges? Absolutely, but that’s what makes it interesting. I think of it like an old classic car… there are some people that look at a beat up classic car and think, “What a pile of junk!” There are others that will look at that same car and see the potential that it offers. Make no mistake, anyone who has restored a car knows that it is no easy feat… it is absolutely a labor of love. But, when you can look back at what you started with and see the finished product, it’s always worth it!

An article from Fox News reporting on the 2011 Las Vegas Perspective tell us what we already knew… non-gaming business will be critical to the success of future Las Vegas.

There has been a lot of talk about the diversification of the Las Vegas economy, but when pressed I rarely hear new ideas other than tapping outside markets (specifically California) since we have offer preferential tax treatment. Our favorable tax environment is becoming less of a unique capability with other states considering the same strategy for themselves. Taking that strategy to market is a great way to appeal to all businesses… but as the famous saying goes, the middle of the road is the most dangerous place to drive.

If we truly want to make an impact and diversify Las Vegas, it makes more sense to approach this from a product launch perspective. Our city is the product- we need to identify our market. Any marketing 101 grad knows that a sure way to fail is to try to be all things to all people. It is far better to take a niche approach and serve that niche better than anyone else.

As far as what Las Vegas’ niche should be, I am not 100% sure. I used to think that we could make a name for ourselves in renewable energy, specifically solar power, but Boulder, CO has already established itself as the epicenter. That’s not to say that we can’t play a part. I just think we let a golden opportunity slip past us.

After touring the Switch Data Center, I firmly believe that Las Vegas offers a very unique capability to serve data centers and other companies that rely on similar criteria- ~70* annual average temperature, moderate climate, low humidity, low risk for natural disasters, etc. These are uniquenesses that apply to a very small section of our country and cannot be duplicated outside of that zone.

I am excited about Zappos’ relocation to downtown Las Vegas and the vison that Tony Hsieh has for the area. With Tony Hsieh acting as an evangelist for our city, I don’t think there is any reason we can’t attract more technology companies to relocate.

Whichever direction we choose, it is imperative that we build a strategy within the city to support that direction and then market it. That means getting state government, local government, the university, and local business to at least start moving in the same direction around a core strategy. That is a feat that is much easier said than done and an article that I will leave for another day…

It would seem that there is some sort of curse on the Sahara and Las Vegas Blvd. intersection… the Sahara Hotel and Casino has announced that it is closing it’s door in May adding to the list of closed, incomplete, and/or struggling projects. The incomplete (and likely to be demolished if not properly sealed soon) Fontainebleau resides just to the south along with a struggling Riviera that was just purchased out of bankruptcy. Just to the north is the Ivanka Trump project that never went further than painting a building a horrible combination of black and pink. To the west, a prime piece of corner real estate is still vacant.

The closing of the Sahara should not come as a surprise to anyone. It has struggled for years and has been desperate for a renovation or redevelopment. Rumors have been floating around for well over 10 years that a closure was imminent.

All that being said, this area will be ripe with opportunity when development starts to make sense again. This is the one section of the Las Vegas strip that is left to develop and will be directly in the path of progress.

Years ago, when I first got out of highschool, I worked in a financial services company and held my series 6 and 63 licenses for mutual fund investments. A great accomplishment for an 18 year old… unfortunately, 9/11 happened at the same time.

Although I was young, I felt I had a firm grasp on the principles of investing. The age old adage is buy low and sell high… I felt as though I had timed the market perfectly! The market was low, I thought for sure that everyone would be buying. Imagine my disappointment when I found it nearly impossible to get anyone to invest.

That experience taught me a lot. Mostly, that common sense goes out the window when coupled with emotion. Logically, we understand the buy low, sell high principle. Emotionally, it is much rarer to see individuals actually pull the trigger in a market that is tumbling.

I see a lot of similarities between the current real estate market in Las Vegas right now and the market “corrections” of yesteryear. In hindsight, we can look back at the surging real estate market and see that the time to be bearish on real estate was 2006. How many people are going to look back in 5 years and have the sudden realization that the time to get bullish on real estate was 2010/2011?

Anyone who has lived here for any period of time, knows that Las Vegas is a double edged sword. You can make a fortune in an instant, and los it just as quickly. With the relatively mild, enjoyable winters comes the unbearably hot summers.

Las Vegas ranks among the top markets in the US for distressed property, but the silver lining to that dark cloud is that we are also among the most active in sales. Read more in the recent In Business Las Vegas article here.

Yes, the Las Vegas market grew too fast, built projects that should never have been built, and overextended itself in more ways than one, but there is still a great opportunity for future growth and the fact that there are still buyers should instill some confidence. That can be hard to remember after riding the highs of the boom.

As I discussed in a previous post, we seem to have dodged the tsunami of distress that everyone had been so afraid of.

I came across this great post by Pete Michaud and couldn’t help but think about how this story applies to business in general:

Transcript of the audio:

So I get off the train, I’m walking toward the stairs, and this young teenager pulls out a knife. He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, “here you go.”

He starts to leave and as he’s walking away, I’m like, “hey, wait a minute, you forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

He’s looking at me like, what’s going on here? He asked me, “Well, why are you doing this?”

I’m like, “Well, I don’t know man. If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was go get dinner, and if you really want to join me, hey, you’re more than welcome.” So I’m like, “Look, you can follow me if you want.” I just felt, maybe he really needs help.

So, we go into the diner where I normally eat, we sit down in the booth, and the manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi. The kid was like “Man, you know everybody here, do you own this place?”

I’m like, “No, I just eat here a lot.”

He’s like, “But you’re even nice to the dishwasher!”

I’m like, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?”

So he’s like, “Yeah, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way.”

So I just asked him in the end, I’m like, “What is it that you want out of life?”

He just had almost a sad face. Either he couldn’t answer me or he didn’t want to.

The bill came and I look at him, and I’m like, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill, because you have my money and I can’t pay for this, so… If you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”

He didn’t even think about it, he’s like “Yeah, okay, here you go.” He gave me my wallet back.

And I gave him $20, I figured maybe it’ll help him, I don’t know. And when I gave him the $20, I asked him to give me something in return: his knife. And he gave it to me.

It’s funny because when I told my mom about what happened, no mom wants to hear this but, she said, you were always the type of kid that if someone asked you the time you’d give them your watch. I don’t know, I figure that if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.

I have developed 5.5 tenets to my customer philosophy… I strive to live by these and deliver them to my customers every day. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I have fallen short at times, but no matter how good I get I believe there will always be room for improvement!

1. Honor my customers by always doing what is right

I have always lived by the idea that I should always be proud of my actions… that if what I was doing when nobody was looking were to be published in the paper, I wouldn’t be embarrassed. This has meant correcting errors that would most likely be over looked to delivering bad news as soon as I know it so my customer has the opportunity to adjust their plans if necessary. Ultimately, it comes down to the “Golden Rule” – I treat my customers like I would expect to be treated.

2. Provide more than is expected

This has been a key to building customer loyalty… do what is expected and then a little bit more. This is often as simple as anticipating the next step so my customer doesn’t need to ask.

3. Never take business for granted

I appreciate every piece of business I receive… I know that my customers have a choice and I am honored when they choose me.

4. Put my customer’s success ahead of my own

When my customers are successful, I will be successful. This may mean turning down attractive opportunities when I know that there is a better option than myself. I believe that customers value the honesty and develop more trust as a result.

5. Offer solutions not problems (what I can do vs. what I can’t do)

I personally have a strong aversion to being told I can’t do something… I know my customers feel the same way. I strive to always deliver a message of what I can accomplish, not what I can’t do.

5.5 Be human!

I believe customers want to feel like they are dealing with another human being, not a robot that can only recite rules and procedures. I strive to develop warm personal relationships based on mutual trust and understanding.

Let me ask you this:

Are there any tenet’s that are missing? What do you see as being most important as a customer?