Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, but it’s also a major metropolis with more than 2 million residents, many still digging out from the Great Recession. One pressing challenge is education. The Clark County School District, which encompasses Las Vegas, covers 8,000 square miles and approximately 318,000 students. More than 61 percent qualify for free or reduced-cost meals, meaning they live at or below the poverty line.
To help educators address student needs, Barrick has stepped up its investments in education in southern Nevada, forming partnerships with a number of non-profit educational organizations. The company also counts numerous Las Vegas-area vendors among its suppliers, while others are indirect beneficiaries.
A long-time Las Vegas resident, Pete Rogers founded Silver State Wire Rope & Rigging 25 years ago. The company, headquartered in a 10,000-square-foot facility in southwest Las Vegas, provides rigging equipment and services to numerous industries, including mining. "Barrick is probably one of the top two mining industry customers that we’ve been dealing with for a long time," Rogers says.
Mining accounts for roughly a quarter of Silver State Wire’s business, and Rogers says that’s likely to grow as the company continues to add customers outside of Nevada. "Our goal is to develop business nationally," he says, noting that Silver State Wire does business in states as distant as Florida and New York.
There are multiple links between Las Vegas–area businesses, non-profits and the mining industry. Take Morrissey Insurance. Founded 36 years ago by Mike Morrissey, the company has handled the insurance needs of Cashman Equipment for 34 of them. Morrissey’s son Sean has Down Syndrome and is a long-time client of Opportunity Village. In 2012, Mike, who is a member of Opportunity Village’s Board, took Cashman CEO MaryKaye Cashman on a tour of Opportunity Village’s Englestad Campus.
During the tour, Morrissey and Cashman visited the employment resource center, where Opportunity Village clients do paid piece work for numerous Las Vegas–area businesses. They came to a table of individuals packing various items into a plastic bag. Each time a bag was filled, it was placed into a barrel and the group cheered. MaryKaye noted how much fun the group was having, Morrissey recalls. It was then that he told her that the group was packing Cashman Equipment materials.
"I told her those were Cashman Equipment oil kits that are sent off to companies like Barrick Gold when they buy Caterpillar equipment from you guys. So Cashman employs Opportunity Village. And her eyes welled up and she was really moved by this. So Barrick may not know the extent of its impact. You guys are connected to us in a lot of ways."
While the mining industry does business with more than 2,200 vendors in Nevada, the industry’s economic impact extends well beyond these primary suppliers. Prime contractors need sub-contractors, parts suppliers need components for their parts, and large vendors like Cashman Equipment need firms to design and build their facilities. Firms like SH Architecture.
A mainstay in Las Vegas for 30 years, SH Architecture designed Cashman’s Henderson facility and is currently working on the expansion of Cashman’s Reno campus. The company, which has 22 employees, also designed the new Boys and Girls Club facility in Elko, one of numerous community-based projects in its portfolio.
A common denominator among all of these projects, says Curt Carlson, Vice President and Director of Design at SH Architecture, is mining. Barrick, for example, provided substantial funding for the construction of the Elko Boys and Girls Club, and mining is a key driver of Cashman’s business. “I’d say mining, and really Barrick, touches 40 percent of our projects in some way,” Carlson says.
Mining’s economic impact in Nevada doesn’t stop at secondary-level vendors like SH Architecture, Carlson adds. When his company takes on a job like the expansion of Cashman’s Reno campus, it hires numerous local companies to help complete the job. Engineering firms like Mendenhall Smith and JBA Consulting Engineers and furniture product company Henriksen/Butler are but a few examples of the companies that work regularly with SH Architecture.
“We may be a firm of just 22, but we’ve got a lot more people working under us,” Carlson says.
The distinctive “Caterpillar Yellow” roof looms large as you approach Cashman Equipment’s industrial campus on St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nevada. Cashman, the largest Caterpillar equipment dealer in the state, opened the state-of-the-art 53-acre campus in 2009. Located about 20 minutes outside of Las Vegas, it consists of seven buildings that are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. It was built with sustainable materials such as recycled glass and has a geothermal heating and cooling system powered by 359 underground wells. It is home to 275 of Cashman’s 800 employees, and in no small part it owes its existence to the mining industry. “The Henderson campus would not have been here today were it not for mining in Nevada,” says Mike Pack, President and Chief Operating Officer of Cashman.
Mining accounts for about 75 percent of Cashman’s business. The company also has a large presence in Elko, as well as facilities in other northeastern Nevada mining hubs like Winnemucca and Round Mountain, but its machine rebuild, rentals and power division, are located in Henderson. The company also has a similar-sized campus in Reno. “We’ve been preaching for the last four or five years about how mining is not just Elko, it’s not just Winnemucca, it’s not just Round Mountain,” Pack says. “It’s Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City, Henderson. It’s everywhere.”
It’s noon on a steamy September day in North Las Vegas, and the lunch room at Sedway Middle School is swarming with activity. Four hundred grade-six students have arrived, hungry, happy and thrilled to be free of the classroom. Full of youthful vigor, they jump, shout and sing. Chairs screech, tables clatter and the kids chatter non-stop. The noise sounds like a torrent of water cascading over a large waterfall. In short, it’s like any school lunchroom.
But Sedway is also unique. Eighty-four percent of its 1,400 students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, meaning their families live at or below the poverty line. Many come from single-parent homes or new immigrant families that speak little or no English. Student needs are so acute and varied that the school was deemed eligible for support from the non-profit organization Communities in Schools (CIS). CIS provides wrap-around services, facilitating everything from tutoring to transportation to food, clothing and health care services for students. The organization began working with Sedway in 2012, supported by a $1.2 million donation from Barrick spread over four years. Zachary Robbins was principal at Sedway for the first two years of the school’s involvement with CIS.
“We fed families,” says Robbins, now principal of a nearby high school. “We fed children. We got school clothes for children. We put shoes on children’s feet. We encouraged children by checking in with them on a bi-weekly basis. CIS did all those things and made a substantial contribution to what was happening at Sedway Middle School.”
He explains how the program was developed with CIS:
Student turnover at Sedway is extremely high. Each school year, roughly one-third of the student body changes between September and June. The school sometimes seems like a way station, with new students registering daily while others depart. Jasmine Orr, one of two CIS coordinators at Sedway, makes it a point to meet with new students and their parents to help make the transition a little easier.
Earlier this year, she met two single mothers whose children had recently begun attending Sedway. They lived in the same apartment complex and, between them, had 13 children, including three at Sedway. Neither could afford school uniforms for their children, some of whom attended a nearby elementary school that was also affiliated with CIS. Orr reached out to the CIS coordinator from that school and together they helped the mothers obtain uniforms, as well as weekend wear and shoes for their children. They also helped the children register for the free and reduced-cost lunch program.
The following week, Orr met with Barrick executives and related the incident to them. She explained that school uniforms are a requirement at Sedway but that some families couldn’t afford them. In response, Barrick provided funding for more than 100 new uniforms.
The three new students at Sedway are now part of a smaller student cohort at the school receiving individualized services and support from CIS. In all, CIS case manages 140 at-risk students at Sedway, providing them with academic support, mentoring and access to a wide range of services based on their needs.
Last school year, 90 percent of case-managed students at Sedway improved their academic performance and behavior. Since CIS began working with Sedway, the school has gone from a one-star rating (out of five) on the Clark County School District’s rating system to a three-star rating.