From Sin City to Green City?

Las Vegas has suffered more than most cities during the economic downturn.  With fewer visitors spending less on leisure activities, including gambling, Sin City now has the highest unemployment rate of all big metro areas, as well as a foreclosure rate five times the national average.

As a result, Vegas is now trying to diversify its economy and reinvent itself as a prime destination for medical tourism and a center for green technology.

“The be-all and end-all cannot be one industry,” Mayor Oscar Goodman said in an NPR interview this month. “Gaming has really given us a quality of life second to none . . . But that’s another time, another day. I think we really have to branch out and have new businesses here.”

[EXPAND More]On one level, Peter Drucker would have applauded the city’s efforts. “Planned, purposeful abandonment of the old and of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising,” he wrote in Managing for Results.

At the same time, though, Drucker would have surely questioned whether Las Vegas is a case study in too little, too late. “One should abandon yesterday’s breadwinner before one really wants to, let alone before one has to,” he advised.

Charles Handy, a visiting scholar at the Drucker Institute and Drucker School, makes a similar point with his “curve of life.” The ebb and flow of a business need not be measured by a single rise and fall, Handy explains. “You can maybe have a second curve, and a third curve,” he says. The trouble is, too many people and organizations fail to seek out a new curve until it’s too late. As Handy put it, “They wait until they see death staring them in the face before they start trying to find their next curve.”

So what do you think: Will Vegas succeed in its reinvention? Or did the policy makers in Sin City wait too long before heading in a new direction?[/EXPAND]