About a month ago, I was approached by Ric Anderson of the Las Vegas Sun to participate in a project that asked various Las Vegans what they thought we could expect for the New Year. His article appeared yesterday in Vegas Inc. Prediction is risky business. Case in point: The College of Business started 2011 facing a potential eighteen percent budget cut that would result in the termination of more than fifteen tenure-track faculty members. The situation was so bleak, that eight faculty members decided to take a university tenure buyout and leave the College rather than face a dire future at UNLV. By the end of the year, the Lee Business School executive team was meeting with Doris and Ted to discuss how we can best use new faculty lines, scholarship money, and community outreach to elevate our national profile. A tumultuous year like this makes you apprehensive and grateful at the same time.
What will 2012 hold? If you are an ancient alien theorist, it doesn’t look good: the Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012 and some people expect things to get really ugly. If like me, you believe we humans control our destiny, 2012 is likely to be a little better than 2011. We all have to recognize that most of the world, nation, and Las Vegas are in slow climbs back to prosperity. History tells us that financial crises leave especially long recessions in their wake. I fear that recent news about booming holiday sales and falling unemployment rates are relatively transitory events fueled by early bargain hunting and workers giving up on finding jobs. Don’t get me wrong. Things are slowly getting better, but recession fatigue will not fuel economic recovery, real increases in productivity are required and those remain modest for the economy as a whole And while I support the drive to diversify our local economy, these efforts will prove more valuable in weathering the next economic downturn than helping us get out of this one. Investments, whether they are designed to diversify our economy or elevate the reputation of a business school, take time to mature. Stephen Brown, Director of our Center for Business and Economic Research said almost the very same thing, at our December 2011 outlook conference.
The economy will recover, but it will not come back. If you worked in one of the industries that helped make Las Vegas boom: construction, hospitality, or business services you may never see a return to the heydays of 2007/2008. Milkmen, elevator operators and typists are still waiting for their decades-long recessions to end. The vibrant economy of 2014 will be a different economy than the one that left us, with somewhat different drivers, characteristics, and demand for workers. Real estate agents are giving way to home stagers, travel agents to data miners and medical record clerks to health informatics technicians, to name just a few. Now is the perfect time to position yourself for the next round of growth by going back to school to upgrade your skills, taking a job to gain experience in an emerging area, building your professional network of peers, or starting a company that meets consumers changing needs. If you are proactive, 2012 will be the bridge to a much better future.