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Cities on the Rise in Nevada

May 12, 2014
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Few states felt the recession more strongly than Nevada, with its reliance on tourism and its collapsed housing market. After leading the nation in unemployment just a few years ago, Nevada now is a U.S. leader in new jobs. Nevada saw job growth of 3.4% in January, according to year-over-year data.

In 2012, Gov. Brian Sandoval challenged businesses to create 50,000 jobs by the end of 2014, and already the state has beat that goal by adding 60,700 new private-sector jobs. The service, government and construction industries have seen considerable growth in recent years.

The Silver State is known for its low tax burden — the state has no corporate income tax or personal income tax — libertarian laws and dry, hot climate. Nevada’s diverse economy is rooted in gaming, tourism, military operations, mining and agriculture. The state is the nation’s leading producer of gold, silver and mercury.

NerdWallet took a closer look at the impressive growth and recovery of this state, parsing out the cities that are on the rise. Our analysis examines the following growth metrics from U.S. Census data:

1. Population growth. We measured growth in the working-age population from 2009 to 2012.
2. Employment growth. We evaluated growth in the percentage of employed residents from 2009 to 2012.
3. Income growth. We calculated growth in the median income for full-time, year-round workers from 2009 to 2012.

Cities on the rise in Nevada

Rank City Nearest Big City Working Age Population Growth Employment Growth Median Income Growth Overall Score
1 Whitney Las Vegas 43.20% -4.80% 8.80% 68.2
2 Spring Creek Salt Lake City 6.80% 7.60% 9.20% 65.3
3 Fernley Reno 61.80% -18.90% 10.20% 61.8
4 Elko Salt Lake City 5.90% 0.70% 9.50% 56.6
5 Enterprise Las Vegas 37.30% -4.50% 0.20% 53.5
6 Summerlin South Las Vegas 41.50% -12.40% 2.50% 48.7
7 Spring Valley Las Vegas 13.30% -4.90% 2.80% 44
8 Paradise Las Vegas 9.90% -5.40% 3.90% 43.3
9 Pahrump Las Vegas 1.00% -13.10% 13.60% 42.4
10 Las Vegas Las Vegas 8.20% -6.70% 5.00% 42.2

Full ranking at the bottom of the page.

Trends and takeaways

  • Most of the cities on our list are in the Las Vegas area — 7 out of the top 10 are close to Las Vegas.
  • Most of the cities with growing economies have some base in tourism. The places near Las Vegas benefit from the city’s status as an entertainment and culture hub.
  • The majority of what we labeled “cities on the rise” in Nevada are census-designated places that aren’t technically cities.

1. Whitney

Whitney has shown incredible population growth of 43.2% over a three-year period. Median incomes also have risen significantly. The unincorporated community of Whitney, located outside Las Vegas, is home to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium.

2. Spring Creek

Many of Spring Creek’s residents commute to nearby Elko, another city on our list.  Nestled in the valley between the Elko Hills and the Ruby Mountains, Spring Creek features three large housing sections, a park and lake, outdoor sports complex and golf course. From 2009 to 2012, Spring Creek showed steady increases in all three growth metrics.

 3. Fernley

Fernley’s population has skyrocketed in recent years, and median incomes have risen, too. The city is revitalizing its downtown to improve accessibility and aesthetics. Fernley is home to an Amazon fulfillment center, the Reno Fernley Raceway, and there are plenty of recreation and entertainment options in the area, with activities ranging from boating to skiing and touring historic ghost towns.

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 4. Elko

Located on the Humboldt River, Elko’s incomes have risen by almost 10% over a three-year period. Elko is near the historic California Trail, and its economy is rooted in gold mining (the city is the capital of Nevada’s gold belt), ranching and tourism.

 5. Enterprise

The young town of Enterprise was formed in 1996. The unincorporated area has shown significant population growth in recent years — from 2000 to 2010, the population increased a whopping 639%.  The area is home to the corporate headquarters of Allegiant Air.

 6. Summerlin South

Summerlin South, an extension of the master-planned community of Summerlin, is in Las Vegas Valley. The Summerlin South region has grown steadily in population and median income.

 7. Spring Valley

Located only two miles from the Las Vegas Strip, Spring Valley has seen steady population growth and income growth in recent years. This quickly developing region has a strong base of commerce as well as access to the outdoors and recreation at the huge Desert Breeze Park. Spring Valley is home to several celebrities, including tennis greats Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf.

 8. Paradise

Paradise’s population has grown nearly 10% from 2009 to 2012. This unincorporated town outside Las Vegas is home to McCarran International Airport and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The university makes a strong effort to enrich and improve the community, conducting programs like Delivering and Serving Home (DASH), where students make food for the city’s homeless population.

 9. Pahrump

Pahrump has seen significant population growth — almost 14% — over three years.  The area is named for its artesian wells. Residents here can easily visit Death Valley National Park, which is just over an hour away.

10. Las Vegas

The city that calls itself The Entertainment Capital of the World, has a robust economy built on tourism, gaming and conventions.  Although tourism slowed after the recession, Vegas has shown steady growth in population and income in recent years.  The city is known for fine dining, nightlife and gambling.


 The overall score for each city was derived from these measures:

1.    Population growth from 2009 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. Data for the working-age population (16+) comes from the 2009 and 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05.

2.    Employment growth from 2009 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. Data for the percent of employed residents comes from the 2009 and 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05.

3.    Income growth from 2009 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score.  Data for the median earnings for full-time workers comes from the 2009 and 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimates for all places in the state, Table S2409.

We evaluated 22 cities, towns and census-designated places (CDPs) in Nevada with more than 10,000 residents for this study.


Rank City Working Age Population Growth Employment Growth Median Income Growth Overall Score
1 Whitney 43.2% -4.8% 8.8% 68.2
2 Spring Creek 6.8% 7.6% 9.2% 65.3
3 Fernley 61.8% -18.9% 10.2% 61.8
4 Elko 5.9% 0.7% 9.5% 56.6
5 Enterprise 37.3% -4.5% 0.2% 53.5
6 Summerlin South 41.5% -12.4% 2.5% 48.7
7 Spring Valley 13.3% -4.9% 2.8% 44.0
8 Paradise 9.9% -5.4% 3.9% 43.3
9 Pahrump 1.0% -13.1% 13.6% 42.4
10 Las Vegas 8.2% -6.7% 5.0% 42.2
11 Reno 5.9% -6.6% 5.3% 41.6
12 Sparks 7.7% -4.3% 1.5% 40.1
13 Spanish Springs 16.2% -8.1% 1.5% 39.9
14 Carson City 3.5% -9.2% 6.3% 38.5
15 North Las Vegas 7.6% -9.1% 3.7% 37.1
16 Mesquite 2.0% -9.1% 5.7% 37.0
17 Henderson 6.1% -6.8% 0.2% 34.3
18 Winchester 4.6% -13.3% 4.3% 31.2
19 Sunrise Manor 4.2% -8.8% 0.4% 31.1
20 Gardnerville Ranchos -0.2% -7.0% -0.8% 29.5
21 Boulder City 5.6% -1.6% -10.3% 26.0
22 Sun Valley -2.5% -9.1% -3.8% 21.4

A road image from Shutterstock.