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Are Pahrump's Recession Scars Healing?

Courtesy of Ken Lund
Courtesy of Ken Lund

Pahrump is an unincorporated town in Nye County. The town with 36,441 residents is about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

Over the hump some 60 miles from Las Vegas sits Pahrump.

The unincorporated town with 36,411 residents continues its slow recovery from the Great Recession.

But economic problems persist for the largest town in Nye County.

Eli Segall, a business reporter with the  Las Vegas Sun, recently wrote an article about Pahrump's slow rise from the recession. 

He told KNPR's State of Nevada that at the height of the housing bubble in 2005 1,000 permits for new houses were pulled compared with last year when just 79 were pulled.

Segall said there is one large development going up but mostly everything is custom homes and some smaller housing developments that are not finished.

He told about one called Cottage Grove Estates that has just two paved streets with a few completed houses but the rest is just open desert.

"You've got these cul-de-sacs, these dirt cul-de-sacs, with no homes, no streets, no street lights," he said, "It is sort of this suburban apocalypse if you will," 

However, Segall said there are people living there who are perfectly happy to keep it that way. 

“My impression of Pahrump is that you have a lot of people there who are politically very libertarian," he said, "A lot of people move there because they just want to left alone. It has attracted a lot of people. It’s a very big, tiny town”

Arnold Knightly is editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. He agreed that a large portion of the town was very happy to see the housing market collapse because it stopped development.

“I think there is a pull back and forth between people who like to see the community developed and people who have been out there for a long time who want to be left alone," Knightly observed. 

Even with the push and pull, one of the biggest problems with bringing more development to Pahrump, even a modest amount, is there are not a lot of jobs, according to Knightly.

He said most people travel over the hump into the Las Vegas Valley for work. In fact, Knightly does the opposite he works in Pahrump but lives in Henderson.

"When I drive in during the day, a lot of people are going the other way and when I drive home at night and the lights are coming over the hill," he said. "So there is a real need for good jobs."

Knightly did say there are some changes coming to the area, including a solar power plant, broadband internet connection, and possibly a movie theater.

According to Knightly, people move to Pahrump to enjoy the rural lifestyle "but be close enough to Las Vegas." However, a rural lifestyle also means you have less access to services.

So what does Pahrump look like in five years?  

"I think it looks like it does today because I think there is a lot of people out there that want it that way," Knightly said. 

Eli Segall, business reporter, Las Vegas Sun; and Arnold Knightly, editor, Pahrump Valley Times.

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