Nevada Lights up the Capitol
Lawmakers and Hill staffers were treated to a night at the casino when the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual gala on Capitol Hill last week.
At the celebration, dubbed Nevada Lights up the Capitol, attendees sporting cowboy hats and bandanas were greeted by cigarette girls and Venetian stilt walkers, as a jazz trio rattled off show-tunes and a contortionist writhed on a platform in the dimly-lit hall.
“We view this as an opportunity to bring our members together and enable them to build relationships with our leaders here in Washington, D.C.,” said Kristin McMillan, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber. “It’s a great way to celebrate our state, while at the same time communicating to people in D.C. that there are important issues in the western part of the U.S. that need to be addressed.”
Guests at the party tried their luck at an assortment of table games like blackjack, craps and roulette, while snacking on hors d'oeuvres and sipping cocktails. Vendors representing organizations from across the state manned booths distributing swag and chatting with passersby.
“This isn’t just southern or northern Nevada—it’s the whole state,” said Bill Noonan, senior vice president at the Boyd Gaming Corporation and chairman of the chamber’s board of directors. “We have such a diversity of things to offer people who come and visit, and we want everybody to be exposed to that tonight.”
The gala kicked off the chamber’s annual D.C. fly-in, a tradition that dates back to 2006. Aside from the festivities, the chamber uses the trip as a chance to engage lawmakers, agency officials and policy experts on longstanding regional issues, like its ongoing opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository due to safety and environmental concerns.
“Yucca Mountain has resurrected itself with the new administration, so we’re fighting it with a multi-pronged approach,” said Cara Clarke, associate vice president of communications at the Las Vegas Metro Chamber. “Because tourism is so vital to our entire state economy, any type of accident, even a minor one, could devastate that industry and scare tourists. It’s just too much of a risky proposition.”
Infrastructure is also a major priority for the delegation, which wants to see construction begin on Interstate 11, a planned freeway that would connect Phoenix to Las Vegas. Those metro areas are currently the two largest adjacent U.S. cities without a direct freeway link.
“With Interstate 11, eventually, we’re talking about building a pathway between the new ports under construction in the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Canada,” said Clarke. “The connecting of business and economies and trade and shipping will all be huge drivers for the entire U.S economy.”
McMillan says that she hopes that those who interact with the delegation during its time in Washington will gain a greater awareness of the issues that affect the western U.S.
“So many decisions that are made in Washington are viewed from an east coast perspective,” she said. “We’re hoping that there starts to be more understanding that when you invest in the West, you’re actually growing the national economy, too.”
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