By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Portales school administrators, business owners and city officials are holding their collective breath until September when the status of Cannon Air Force Base is crystal clear.
While the city is not expected to feel the economic difficulties that Clovis anticipates if Cannon is closed as recommended by Department of Defense officials, Portales will notice change if the base shuts down.
One of the hardest hit businesses in Portales would be Combs Electric, which has about 20 employees. Owner George Combs has said 18 of his employees are currently working at Cannon.
If CAFB is closed, Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble said the school’s enrollment would fall by 10 to 15 percent. ENMU had 3,692 students enrolled this spring and 3,959 enrolled in the fall.
Trina Valdez, director of federal programs for Portales public schools, said 118 of the district’s students from kindergarten to 12th grade are from Cannon — about 16 percent.
Don Davis, chairman of the Roosevelt General Hospital board, said the hospital would lose 15 percent of its staff if Cannon closes. Marshall Stinnett, CAFB supporter and member of the Military Base Planning Commission, said he expects more of an impact to the hospital because of the loss of patients with health care through the military.
Larry Combs of Combs Properties said 8 percent of his rental properties would be negatively affected if CAFB closes. However, Combs said crews are working on six apartment projects in Portales and they are not on hold because of the CAFB uncertainty.
Combs said if CAFB closes it would hurt the Portales economy but he said his business would be hurt more if Portales lost the dairy industry.
Kevin Jones, owner of Kevin Jones Construction company in Portales, agrees with Combs’ sentiments and that his employees continue to work on the current construction projects. Jones said they build new homes in Clovis and Portales.
“There’s always that possibility,” Jones said. “We build custom homes and some spec homes. Both would be affected. Business has been booming for the last two years. I don’t want (Cannon) to close at all.”
Alva Carter of Big Valley Auto Dealership said his business would see a financial impact of 15 to 20 percent of gross-income loss.