Las Vegas gains momentum as budding tech infrastructure hub

Google announces a partnership with the city of Henderson on the development of a new data center located off of Warm Springs Road on Monday July 1, 2019.

Dale Laizure, who has worked in information technology for more than 20 years, relocated last year to Las Vegas from Southern California to be part of the area’s emerging tech industry.

He’s not alone. National commercial real estate services firm CBRE Group ranked Las Vegas as one of its top 10 “up and coming” tech talent markets in the U.S. and Canada.

Laizure saw an opportunity to go into business for himself in Southern Nevada and will open his own CMIT franchise. Based in Austin, Texas, CMIT offers outsourced IT services for small and mid-sized companies.

“You have technology companies like Google and Amazon, a technology-related company, which are big players in the game, moving to town,” Laizure said. “Clearly, there’s something there. You don’t see companies like Google and Amazon throw money behind an area unless they see the kind of momentum that I see and that everyone else sees.”

Amazon recently opened its third fulfillment center in North Las Vegas, an 850,000-square-foot facility, while ground was broken in July for a $600 million Google data center in Henderson.

“There’s been a massive influx into the valley, and even in my short time being here, I’ve seen it,” Laizure said. “I think Las Vegas will be well positioned to have a technology center in this area. That’s why I’m starting a CMIT (franchise) here — it’s going to be well-positioned to help those small and medium-sized businesses that will continue to come along.”

Whether it’s data center operations run by Las Vegas-based Switch or Google or an online retailer like Zappos, the valley has a solid foundation in the tech sector, said Jeremy Green, a broker with CBRE’s Las Vegas office.

Green also pointed to work being done in Las Vegas in the autonomous vehicle field, which includes companies like Aptiv.

“I think the Las Vegas economy is being diversified,” Green said. “A lot of the (tech) employment base is younger and this is an exciting city for a young person to live in. It’s also more affordable here than many of the alternatives.”

Adam Kramer, executive vice president of strategy for Switch, said having mega companies like Google and Amazon invest in Las Vegas helps solidify the area as what he referred to as a “tech infrastructure hub” on a national level.

“We have 900-plus clients who are putting their infrastructure here in Nevada and running (their technology) out of our ecosystem,” Kramer said. “I think growth is absolutely going to continue here in Las Vegas, both because of the infrastructure we have in place and the desire for companies and people to move to Nevada from California or other areas. We definitely have that infrastructure now.”

Started in 2000, Switch currently has more than 800 employees to go along with its hundreds of clients. Other smaller tech “ecosystems” are just starting out in Las Vegas.

Those include a downtown Las Vegas area at Bank of America Plaza that the city has turned into what it’s calling a tech “innovation center” and UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park, which has started to gain tenants.

David Knight, CEO of a data startup Terbine, thought enough of Las Vegas that he decided to move the company from California to the Bank of America Plaza.

He became sold on downtown Las Vegas after meeting with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Switch CEO Rob Roy, both local tech industry leaders who tend to shy away from media attention.

“We’ve been constantly asked by the city and the county and the state to talk to other tech companies to help get them to move here,” Knight said. “What I perceive is the game, at the moment, is to attract startups from across state lines. There’s a subset of that, which would be outposts of big tech companies coming to the region to set up shop.”

Knight said Hsieh recently visited Terbine’s operation.

“It was really cool that he came to check us out,” Knight said. “He said, ‘we had 25 people when we moved (Zappos) to Vegas and look what happened.’ The third leg of the tripod is to get startups to form here from scratch.”

Whether it’s tech — which touches nearly every industry, anyway — or gaming, hospitality or sports, Knight said Las Vegas is the place to be when it comes to doing business.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t fundamentally believe that,” Knight said. “If the powers that be want something done, it gets done. We could turn into a real experiential economy here that isn’t just based on gaming revenue, and tech has a lot to do with that.”