75,000 high-paying construction jobs, affordable housing opportunities and billions of conservation dollars at risk if lands bill does not pass

They say when you do what you love, you don’t work a day in your life. That is true for me. I have been in the construction industry for almost three decades and have been a part of building over 40,000 homes over the course of my career. The opportunities this industry has provided for me and my family have changed my life.

I joined the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school and spent four years as a hydraulics tech and crew chief. I transitioned to the private sector and spent six years in Southern California with McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Co. In 1992, I made Las Vegas my home. I began in the Las Vegas home building industry picking up construction trash outside in the middle of summer for Pink Ladies Construction Clean-Up, was then hired as a superintendent for Pulte Homes and worked my way up to vice president of Construction and Customer Service. 

I have had the privilege of representing this industry as CEO of the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association (SNHBA) for the last nine years, and it is one of the greatest honors of my life. That is because my story is not out of the ordinary. This industry is filled with success stories like mine. I refuse to accept that my sons and future generations of Nevadans will not have access to the same opportunity I did: to make a great living building Nevada communities.

According to a recent study by Applied Analysis, the average weekly wage for the construction industry is almost triple the service industry, jobs that make up the majority of employment opportunities in Southern Nevada. These high-paying jobs don’t just represent billions of dollars in economic investment into Nevada’s economy. To me, they represent the ability for a working family to own a home, invest in their children’s education and get ahead.

Sen. Cortez Masto and the Nevada delegation have shown great leadership in their introduction of the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act (SNEDCA). The largest conservation bill in Nevada’s history, supported by the Nevada Conservation League, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Save Red Rock, and other conservation groups is full of balance and compromise that secured the support of affordable housing advocates, faith-based organizations, and business groups, chambers of commerce, and commercial and residential development groups like NAIOP and SNHBA alike.

This bill not only helps strengthen the middle class by creating jobs and new market-rate homes. It also meaningfully addresses access to affordable housing by speeding the land transfer process for these parcels from years to months, decreasing costs to provide these units to low-income families that need it the most and increasing options for struggling families so Nevada’s economic prosperity opportunities are available to all. Through this bill and better planning processes, Nevada can meet the challenges of the 21st century. Climate change, affordable housing, wage inequality and conservation funding are all meaningfully and thoughtfully addressed in SNEDCA.

We can come together and pan smarter, using smart growth policies to meet the needs of our community for generations to come. Sunrise Movement organizations that receive out of state funding to advocate for no growth policies are ready for Nevada to give up on construction workers making a great living with their hands and building the American Dream for other working families in Southern Nevada. I and the 75,000 Nevada families whose livelihood in this industry are on the line are not.

The 15,000 to 20,000 acres of the overall 2.4 million acres identified in the bill that could be made available for commercial, residential and affordable housing development will pour billions of dollars of impact fees into funding critical infrastructure and paying for schools and conservation projects. It is more important now than ever that our Nevada delegation continue to protect not only the over 2.2 million acres of Nevada areas of critical environmental concern and wilderness outlined in the most-recent draft, set aside acres for affordable housing, and also protect these jobs.

Let’s not cede our future to Washington, D.C. bureaucrats or New York City organizers. SNEDCA puts Nevadans in the driver’s seat of our own future and gives us the tools needed to solve challenges. As my two sons are starting out their career in this industry and looking for their first homes, we as a community need to ensure that we continue to provide community-wide solutions and the opportunities the construction industry has provided me are available for future generations.

Nat Hodgson is CEO of the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association.