“The idea of a mass exodus is not true,” Lang said. “People can’t leave because they would have to bring a check to the closing, or declare bankruptcy.”
Kevin M. O’Donnell was one who left, though not with his family. He said he won’t walk away from the 3,000-square-foot home he and his wife bought in 2006 in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, for $575,000. In a typical Nevada story, he was laid off, the value of the house dropped by half and family income has fallen even more.
“I committed to paying a mortgage,” said O’Donnell, a 48- year-old New Jersey native. “I don’t feel it’s moral or right to just turn around to the bank and say, ‘Hey, you’re in this with me so I’m not going to pay this loan.’”
A civil engineer specializing in land development who migrated to Nevada for a job with a firm working on residential, mix-used and municipal projects, O’Donnell moved to Great Falls, Montana, for work. He left behind his wife, who lost her job at an architecture firm when Boyd Gaming Corp. mothballed its Echelon casino resort project, and 10-year-old daughter.
The Nevada slowdown after years of rapid growth forced cuts to public school and university budgets and left the government with a projected shortfall of more than $2 billion over the next two years. Nothing on the horizon suggests a rebound, said Thomas Cargill, an economics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It is going to be a decade of reduced economic and financial development, if not stagnation,” Cargill said.