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The Changing Face Of The Silver State

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Nevada is changing.

Consider that just within the last five years:

  • The state passed the biggest tax increase ever to fund education.
  • It legalized recreational cannabis.
  • Voters passed a green energy mandate.
  • And a blue wave last November put Democrats firmly in control in Carson City, including the nation’s first female-majority Legislature.

If Nevada is changing, does that mean Nevadans are changing? Have the cowboys ridden off into the sunset?

Data recently published by online magazine CityLabseems to show the new face of the Silver State. 

The research shows that 90 percent of the people in the state with a higher degree have come from another state.

CityLab co-founder Richard Florida says Nevada has benefitted from college graduates coming to the state but it has changed the state, particularly when it comes to the state's political leaning.

"For some reason, people with higher education have a little bit more liberal outlook," he said, "They might be center-left or center-moderate some of them are further left."

He said Nevada is not alone. Texas, Florida and Colorado are all going from red to purple on the political spectrum because of new people moving in and changing the make up of the state.

Florida believes the shift is going to continue and one of the main reason is the weather. People are moving out of cold climate areas to relocate to better weather in the Sunbelt, as it is called.

Beverly Rogers is a longtime resident of Nevada and a noted philanthropist. Her foundation contributes to Nevada Public Radio.

She said the new people coming to Nevada are bringing changes and challenges in lots of ways.

“I discover something new every single day that I didn’t know was happening on the cultural spectrum, which is what I happen to be more focused on now," she said.

She is seeing growth in the arts from the Arts District to the Smith Center. Rogers said since the start of the city people have come here to get a fresh start and see what is possible.

She believes people are still doing that.

"People could, as my parents did, leave everything they knew and loved and completely start over," she said, "Find careers, make new friends, find ways to help each other create whole new communities. I think that is happening even more so today."

One of the new people finding his way in Las Vegas is Pat Evans. Evans is a recent transplant from Michigan. He wrote an article about the misconceptions of Las Vegas for Business Insider magazine.

He said that before moving here it thought it was a town for partying and gambling.

“As soon as I got here… a different city kind of showed itself to me that I was just really blown away by,” he said.

Evans has found, as most people do, that there is a whole population of real people living real lives in Nevada.

One of the main sources of Nevada's influx of people has been from California. With that influx has been the accusations of the Californication of Nevada.

Lifelong resident Dayvid Figler doesn't think that's a fair assessment.

“I think the Californication of Nevada is a misnomer even if there are a lot of people from California here,” he said.

Figler points out people have moved here from around the country and the world. Those newcomers make a home here and soon become oldtimers.

“If they could survive the brutal summers and adapt to the car culture, which they might not be used to from where they come from, they typically find that convenient groove and they contribute to the community,” he said.

Patrick Duffy is the CEO of the Nevada School of the Arts. He agreed that Las Vegas is a melting pot of people and cultures.

“The beauty of Ellis island many, many years ago is almost the beauty of Las Vegas and Nevada is now," he said, "We beautifully and wonderfully embrace so many people here.”

But he believes to become the culturally driven city that so many newcomers and oldtimers want to see, arts and culture organizations need to work together and people need to attend performances, art shows and concerts.

Richard Florida, author, "Rise of the Creative Class" and CityLab co-founder; Dayvid Figler, attorney; Pat Evans, new Las Vegas resident, David Orentlicher, professor, UNLV; Patrick Duffy, CEO, Nevada School of the Arts; Beverly Rogers, longtime resident

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.