Portales economy on mend

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Community leaders say they feel there are good signs of economic growth in Portales after the first five months of 2006. Despite the continued uncertainty of a mission for Cannon Air Force Base, those leaders are optimistic.

Debi Lee, city manager, said a positive sign of growth is the overall increase in gross receipt tax revenue for the city as well as figures for the April in the retail sector that show gains over last year.

“Retail has been really pleasing for everyone,” Lee said. “Overall signs are good. There’s a lot of construction going on at ENMU and with the fiber-optic project going on and other construction around the city.”

According to city gross receipts collection reports, while retail sagged below the year before through through the fall, things began to turn around in November. The receipts for 2005-06 still lag $196,777 behind the previous year but for the first five months collections are up $146,412.

All five months show gains over the previous year with those received in May up nearly $33,000.

The figures received so far puts actual collections well ahead of a pessimistic post-BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) budget for the city.

The monthly average for the retail portion of the GRT revenue for the first four months is $148,189 which compares to $164,460.50 from a year ago, which was prior to the announcement that CAFB was on the closure list. February was actually ahead of the previous year in the retail sector.

For the entire fiscal year, the GRT revenue has hovered around $2.1 million for the last seven fiscal years.
Kim Huffman, Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce executive director, echoed Lee’s sentiments.

“I agree with Debi, Portales is doing well,” Huffman said. “We didn’t have a huge shock effect from the CAFB situation. We’ve got a furniture store (Ashley Furniture) that expanded, the new Holiday Inn is doing well and MainStreet is doing well with the Yam Theater being renovated.

Lee said there is optimism in Portales that U.S. Department of Defense officials will find a mission for Cannon Air Force Base. According to a spokesman for Air Force Special Operations Command in a recent Clovis News-Journal article, a report examining CAFB as a potential site for Air Force special forces has been submitted to the Pentagon.

“From what we’ve heard, people are real optimistic,” Lee said. “There is a good feeling a new mission will be found for Clovis.”

The GRT revenue is important for city officials because it comprises 78 percent of the total general fund. A majority of that money goes to city salaries.

There have been a few new businesses pop up in the downtown area including Discoteca Mexico and The Shop. Mario Moreno Jr. is the store manager of Discoteca Mexico and sells Spanish CDs, clothing apparel, movies and does custom belt and hat making. Olivia Acosta runs The Shop, which is a hair salon.

There have been a few new members to the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce since the start of the year as well. The Shop, Sharpe Image (hair salon), Holiday Inn Express, Vals Logo Wear and Kiva Realty are some of the new chamber members.