Effect Cannon closure will have on local enterprises

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

What kind of effect would Cannon’s closure have on Portales? The majority of business owners, university, public schools and city leaders feel the impact would be to a lesser extent than Clovis, but would still be significant.
Susan Wilson, vice president of the Hirst Cordova public relations firm in Albuquerque, said the firm’s representatives are putting together an economic impact study on Clovis and Portales if Cannon closes. No timeframe has been set for completion of the study.
Here is a list of some of the principal entities in the area that would be affected by closure.

Portales Municipal School District
If Cannon Air Force Base closes, the district would lose 118 students from kindergarten up to 12th grade, according to Trina Valdez, director of federal programs for Portales schools. Valdez said that total represents about 16 percent of the student population.
Valdez could not be reached for further comment.

City Manager Debi Lee gave a conservative estimate of losing 8 percent to 10 percent in gross receipt tax revenue from retail and services. The estimation does not include new revenue from new construction development.
The lost GRT revenue generated from new construction and from retail services would be about $705,000 (17.73 percent of total GRT generated). The total GRT for the fiscal year of July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 was $4.01 million.
Lee said that revenue is used to provide many city services, such as trash collection and the Portales Recreation Center, and could mean a loss of jobs. Lee said the city currently employs about 150 employees, but about one-third of those are temporary summer employees.

Eastern New Mexico University
University President Steven Gamble thinks that there is a fighting chance to keep the base. That’s about the only BRAC-related item he’s optimistic about.
“On campus, we can’t think of one good thing that could come from the closing of Cannon Air Force Base,” Gamble said, “but we can think of many, many bad things.”
Gamble figures ENMU would lose at least 400 students directly affiliated with the base, and that more student loss would occur in a second wave because of a smaller Portales population.
“We have 3,959 students for the fall (of 2004),” Gamble said. “We think by the end of the closure, I would say it would cost us 10 percent — and maybe 15 percent — of our total enrollment.”
The university’s funding, Gamble said, would decrease in a similar proportion.
Gamble said the university has a few contingency plans to bolster the enrollments, but declined to comment on the details of those plans.

Dick Fischer of Fischer Properties of Seattle said he has a 25-year agreement with the military for the CAFB 801 housing. There are 150 houses in the 801 housing project. Fischer said the military has a financial responsibility to the houses until 2014 even if the base closes.
The 801 housing property is valued at $10.5 million and the county would not lose out on the $73,432 it collects on property taxes each year while Fischer Properties continues ownership.
Anybody who purchases those houses would have to take on the terms of the agreement as well.

Roosevelt General Hospital
James D’Agostino, chairman of the Roosevelt General Hospital board, said the hospital would lose 10 percent of its staff. He said the hospital would lose 13 of its approximate 130 hospital staff members if CAFB closes.
D’Agostino estimates the hospital will lose at least $1.28 million a year in revenue. D’Agostino said the revenue is a combination of the cost of rehiring the staff members they lost, training, gross-receipt tax revenue and revenue from Tricare. Tricare is the main health insurance provider for the CAFB military personnel.
“It will not only have an impact on us, but everyone in the community,” D’Agostino said. “If people leave then we lose patients. If the patient base decreases then the revenue decreases and we might have to look at cutting the workforce.”
D’Agostino said as the population decreases loss in revenue will continue to climb from the initial $1.28 million.

Law enforcement
Portales Police Department Capt. Lonnie Berry said there would be no loss of staff if CAFB closes. Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Rick Short said no staff would be lost if CAFB closes. He did say two reserve officers from the base would be lost. Short said the reserves are used when needed for traffic control after football and basketball games and for crowd control at the Roosevelt County Fair and other events.

Christopher Erickson, a New Mexico State University economist, projects the closure of Cannon will result in the loss of 1,000 jobs outside of Curry County, most of them in Portales.
Combs Electric company, which has approximately 20 employees, would be the hardest hit. George Combs, owner of Combs Electric, stated 18 of them are working on the runway lights at CAFB. Evelyn Combs of Combs Electric said 90 percent of their business is from CAFB, from working on runways and buildings. Combs said his business would be devastated and would cause him to cut most of his staff.
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 CAFB’s uncertainty.
Alva Carter of Big Valley Auto Dealership said his business would see a financial impact of 15 to 20 percent of gross-income loss.