- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2010

LAS VEGAS | During Las Vegas’ boom years, plentiful jobs were enough to keep the masses moving here.

Now that the boom has gone bust, a new survey by University of Nevada, Las Vegas researchers suggests a large share of valley residents see little reason to stay.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Area Social Survey found 40 percent of locals want to leave the state.

The results are an indication of tough times, said Robert Futrell, a UNLV sociologist who led the study paid for by the university and the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition.

Most Las Vegans, it seems, talk about moving at some point. The transient nature of the area - only 8 percent of residents were born there - certainly contributes to that. But with southern Nevada’s economy bumping along the bottom, shedding jobs as it goes, more might be thinking those thoughts.

“It seems some people would want to leave because jobs are unavailable and jobs were such a large force in drawing people here,” Mr. Futrell said.

Part of it, however, could be the sense some have that they’re trapped here - by being underwater in their mortgages (more than 80 percent of valley households) or unable to find an attractive job elsewhere (U.S. unemployment rate: 9.7 percent).

In reflecting on the survey’s results, local officials, residents and former Las Vegans cited the fact that local governments failed to foster a sense of community at the same pace developers threw up chock-a-block stucco homes.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said that the large number of people who want to give up on the area shows government did not do enough during the good times to make the valley a place where people would want to live even during bad times.

“I know a lot of it is the economy. But this is when you want to have the amenities in place,” she said. “Shame on the county for not putting funding directly into … programs like parks.” Park funding typically comes from developers.

County Commissioner Susan Brager, chairwoman of the Regional Planning Coalition, said she is surprised by the survey’s results. “Most people I talk to really love it here,” said Miss Brager, who works as a real estate agent.

The study showed that 77 percent feel their quality of life here is at least “fairly good.”

But some Las Vegans who have left said they understand the feelings of those who are considering moving.

Matt Chernoff, 37, a musician and native Las Vegan, moved about a year ago to a tiny community three hours south of Portland, Ore., with his wife, Monica, 32, his father and friends. All had grown tired of Las Vegas.

On 10 acres, the group has started something of a commune, he said.

“Moisture in the air and a green environment: That’s the physical, biological reason we moved,” Mr. Chernoff said. “The more psychological was, we wanted to have a child and I wanted to raise a child outside of Las Vegas, knowing what it’s like to be raised in Vegas.”

“Vegas is like a flagship for gluttony,” he added.

c Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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