Economist wants community assistance for impact study

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Erin Ward, New Mexico State University economist, wants to pinpoint the economic effect the closure of Cannon Air Force Base will have on Portales and she needs help from Portales business owners.
Ward is putting together an economic impact study on the effect to Portales to be presented to the Base Realignment and Closure committee when they make a visit to Clovis in late June.
For the study, Ward wants to receive examples from businesses or organizations which will be hurt by the loss of CAFB. For example, George Combs, owner of Combs Electric, said he has 20 employees and 18 of them are working on the runway lights at CAFB. Combs said his business would be hit hard and would have to cut employees if the base closes.
“I have received a few E-mails from community business people with information that is helping me delineate the economic impacts,” Ward said. “These have been very helpful.”
Don Davis, chairman of the Roosevelt General Hospital board, said the hospital would lose 15 percent in staff if the base closes.
Marshall Stinnett, CAFB supporter and Military Base Planning Commission member, said during a county meeting there would be more of an impact to the hospital because of the loss of patients with health care through the base.
“Portales is on top of things,” Ward said. “It’s impressive. Of course, Clovis is the chief worry. That community may be devastated if Cannon AFB is closed.”
The RGH information and ramifications to Combs Electric is what Ward is looking for. Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega took Ward on a tour around the community last week.
“We looked at each area of the community and how it would be affected,” Ortega said. “We looked at the ties the community has with Cannon. We discussed the effect on health care and the health services provided to CAFB.”
Ortega said there has already been contact with James D’Agostino, RGH administrator and Steven Gamble, Eastern New Mexico University president, about the effects to the hospital and ENMU.
Priscilla Mestas, Portales Schools Assistant Superintendent and Director of Instruction, was also in attendance during the previous BRAC meeting. Ward wants to know the enrollment downfall to Portales Schools and ENMU.
“As far as identifying anything new for the impact analysis, it would be beneficial to know of any sizable investments that have a military connection that have been made recently — say within the last 12 months — that might be calculated into the analysis,” Ward said. “Those investments will not have been picked up by the BRAC analysis, which covers only national, state and regional data that is from 2002-’03. We can legitimately claim our analysis is more current, and therefore, more telling.”
Business owners and others who will suffer an economic backlash by the closure can E-mail their information to erinward@nmsu.edu.