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Convention center is most deserving of tax support

It is undeniable that the well-being of tourism and the hospitality industry are directly connected with the well-being of our jobs, communities and great city. Our city’s economy thrives on a stable visitor base.

Convention business is critical to the Las Vegas hospitality industry. Las Vegas is a world-class destination for conventions and convention-goers. How could it not be? Culinary Union members work as housekeepers, cooks, food servers, kitchen workers and cocktail servers, in casinos here and in Reno. Our members are the faces of these destinations. Culinary members work tirelessly to provide the best service and experiences. We want tourists to have a tremendous Vegas experience. We know how important it is to keep rooms filled, not only on a handful of nights but throughout the year.

The convention center is vital to our community’s ability to attract travelers throughout the year. Today, the convention center generates approximately $2.1 billion in economic impact per year, making it a true community asset.

The competition we face from other jurisdictions that are expanding and upgrading their own convention facilities is significant. There is fierce competition to attract meetings, conventions and trade shows away from Las Vegas to places such as Chicago, Miami, Boston and Orlando, Fla. It is troubling that Las Vegas has slipped from its No. 1 position as a convention destination. As the country’s entertainment capital, our city has more to offer convention-goers than anywhere else in America. We can’t afford to lose trade shows to cities that have more space and amenities to offer.

The Southern Nevada Tourism and Infrastructure Committee, made up of industry leaders and elected officials, has recommended the convention center’s expansion. We hope the Legislature will adopt its proposal. We have, on multiple occasions, urged the committee to not recommend public funding for any venture, such as an NFL stadium, that could be funded privately by the proponents of that project. This is particularly important when using public funding for an expensive NFL stadium — for a team that may or may not come — will slow or even stop the convention center expansion. The convention center’s expansion should be a top priority.

The worst of the recession is behind us. But even with improved finances, there always will be limited tax resources. We need public dollars to go to the community’s critical public asset, the convention center. We need to invest in what we all know to be true, that the convention business is a key component of our tourism, and it needs our full support so that we can continue to make Las Vegas a world-class destination for conventions and meetings.

Editor’s note: Cvent, a meetings technology company, lists Las Vegas as the No. 3 convention destination. However, Las Vegas was ranked No. 1 in DestinationMAP, a series of studies of meetings and convention decision-makers.

Geoconda Arguello-Kline is the secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union Local 226.

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