LAS VEGAS -- Anyone who doesn't think Southern Nevada is suitable for cutting edge businesses and industries isn't paying attention to the new wave of entrepreneurs who have set up shop in the metro area, holding out promise of more to come.
Some, like online shoes and clothing retailer Zappos and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, have already established high profiles. Others, like solar power manufacturer Amonix, have suffered setbacks that can affect any industry, especially those struggling to survive the Great Recession.
With a planned move from Henderson to old Las Vegas City Hall at 400 Stewart Ave., Zappos and CEO Tony Hsieh are positioning the company to lead a downtown business renaissance that could include high-tech startups and other innovative ventures. Zappos already does more than $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually.
But Hsieh's interests extend far beyond Zappos, which was acquired by Amazon.com for $1.2 billion in 2009. He is taking a lead role in the Downtown Project, a plan to invest $350 million downtown in high-tech startups, other businesses, cultural amenities and residential high-rises. Look at it as a magnet for creative thinkers.
Creative thinking was certainly in play when Larry Ruvo, an executive with Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, teamed up in 2009 with the world renowned Cleveland Clinic to create the brain health center named after Ruvo's late father, who died of Alzheimer's disease.
In a uniquely-shaped building designed by famed architect Frank Gehry at 888 W. Bonneville Ave., the center serves patients with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or Huntington's disease or multiple sclerosis. It is also performing cutting edge research, including a new study of brain health involving professional fighters, a project supported by the Nevada Athletic Commission, Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rank Boxing and the UFC.
Amonix, based in Seal Beach, Calif., also is in the business of state-of-the-art research as a leading designer and manufacturer of photovoltaic solar power systems. But in January the company laid off roughly two-thirds of the 300-member workforce at its manufacturing plant at 4975 N. Pecos Road in North Las Vegas. Amonix said the layoffs would allow the company to revamp the factory to make a new solar power system, with plans to restart manufacturing later this year.
Numerous other new age businesses that have been assisted by the nonprofit Nevada Development Authority are continuing to make their marks in Southern Nevada.
- Copper Mountain Solar 1 -- The 58-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility owned by Sempra Generation off U.S. 95 in Boulder City served as the backdrop March 21 for a major energy speech from President Barack Obama. The facility, which generates enough electricity to power 17,000 homes annually, is expected over its lifespan to generate $135 million in revenue for local, state and federal governments. Its customer is Pacific Gas & Electric in California.
- Cord Blood America -- Headquartered at 1857 Helm Drive in Las Vegas, the company collects, tests, processes and preserves umbilical cord blood with a goal of becoming a world leader in the storage of stem cells.
- Evergreen Recycling -- Owned by garbage hauler Republic Services, Evergreen offers bins and recycling services from facilities at 5491 Accurate Drive in Las Vegas. Its 50,000-square-foot material recovery facility is the largest of its kind in Southern Nevada.
- LINQ360 -- The think tank at 9555 Hillwood Drive in Las Vegas aims to develop technology solutions to benefit the hospitality industry. Linq360 members include Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and other technology specialists.
- Nevada Solar One -- This 64-megawatt concentrating solar power plant in the Eldorado Valley near Boulder City is owned by Acciona Solar Power, a holding of a global renewable energy company based in Spain. The plant's power, enough to serve 14,000 homes annually, is sold to NV Energy.
- Phoenix Recycling Technologies -- The company at 4775 E. Cheyenne Ave. in Las Vegas operates an environmentally friendly waste tire recycling plant that takes up more than 100,000 square feet. The facility recycles million of car and truck waste tires each year from Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah.
- Silver State North -- Built by First Solar of Tempe, Ariz., the 50-megawatt photovoltaic solar power plant near Primm will begin generating power for sale to NV Energy in May. The plant was sold March 22 to Canadian energy company Enbridge.
- Switch Communications Group -- The Las Vegas company says it has the world's most powerful data center ecosystem, providing colocation computing services, connectivity and cloud services for Fortune 1000 corporations, government agencies and other customers that conduct business over the Internet. Its main data center at 7135 S. Decatur Blvd. near the Las Vegas Beltway is undergoing expansion, and the company is preparing to open another data center near Cheyenne Avenue and Buffalo Drive.
- VadaTech -- Headquartered in Henderson but with a manufacturing facility at 6853 S. Eastern Ave. in Las Vegas, VadaTech serves the aerospace and telecommunications markets with products designed to enhance data processing, communication, storage and graphics.
Here are some other technology-related Southern Nevada companies and products of note:
- Counterless -- This company developed a mobile phone app that allows users to scan restaurant menus and pay directly for food and beverages directly from their phones.
- DocBeat -- This smart phone app from Prana Technology, 871 Coronado Center Drive, Henderson, is designed to allow physicians, pharmacies and hospitals to more easily contact one another.
- InsureMonkey -- The Las Vegas company at 2080 E. Flamingo Road develops technology for the health insurance industry that it says "makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to shop online for health insurance benefits."
- Rumgr -- The app from this company allows smart phone users to take pictures and post items they wish to sell to people in their community, much like a mobile garage sale.
- SocialRadius -- This social media marketing agency is headquartered at 3277 E. Warm Springs Road in Las Vegas.
- Tracky -- The company at 7251 W. Lake Mead in Las Vegas developed a digital task management tool that helps users engage in social collaboration, file sharing, time tracking, cloud syncing and many other "tracks" that the developers describe as "Tweets for doers: they're little bits of information that you'd like to comment or act upon."
- Walls 360 -- This graphic arts company at 5054 Bond St. in Las Vegas specializes in wall graphics for artists, designers, photographers and other business clients.
- Wedgi.es -- Anyone with access to Twitter, Facebook or email can create and share surveys with friends through this product. One sample survey question on its website asks: "Do startups have to take place in Silicon Valley?" The two answers are "Definitely" or "Hell No," with the latter getting far more votes.