Economic development update shared

By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor

After a little more than nine months on the job as economic development director, Greg Fisher gave a progress report at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“Really what this effort has been all about is a partner

ship,” Fisher said. “We’ve been prospecting for new business but most importantly about retaining businesses that are already here.”

Fisher noted the partnership of the city, county, chamber, Eastern New Mexico University, existing business and numerous other entities and individuals as being instrumental in the success of the Roosevelt County Community Development Corp.

He said since he came onboard in late October of 2007, more than 240 new business prospects had been contacted. Those contacts resulted in 63 leads and 36 current prospects.

He credits RCCDC’s efforts with four businesses established, including one retention. He says that one other business, Papa Murphy’s Piiza, plans to move to the community in March and three large alternative energy prospects are looking at the Portales area.

He placed the total number of jobs generated or retained at 85 full time equivalents and total economic impact at $11,353,554.

Fisher showed a variety of figures and charts that showed that the gross receipts are rising, the population is growing steadily, the area is essentially at full employment at less than 3 percent unemployment, and the median wage for the Portales area is nearly $2 an hour more than the median for the region at $12.67 an hour.

“We’re very blessed to have a balanced economy,” Fisher said. “Unlike a lot of smaller communities, we have a very strong manufacturing base.”

Fisher said the strategies ahead for RCCDC include working to reduce retail leakage which he says amounts to $33 million (18.3 percent) being spent outside the community. He says he will continue to focus on supporting expansion of existing business and watch and attract alternative energy.

“We’re not really competing with anyone else,” Fisher said. “We’re just working on what we do best.”

Several council members as well as Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. complimented Fisher on his quick start with the RCCDC.

“I can tell you we’ve been working hard and we appreciate your financial support,” Ortega, who is on the RCCDC board, told city councilors. “I think it’s paid off tremendously. We’re not stopping. We’re moving ahead.”

In other business councilors:

• Approved an application for federal funding for Portales Area Transit. Ortega expressed displeasure that PAT Director Jim Good submitted a proposal that would exceed the $49,000 cap the council had previously place on the city’s match for the program.

Good told Ortega that costs, including fuel and wages have risen dramatically this year. City Manager Debi Lee said more study of bringing the Senior Citizen Van program together with PAT needed to be done in order to reduce costs.

• Gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would annex land where Craig Hughes Welding is located near Kilgore and U.S. 70.

• Approved execution of a grant with the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation for a wastewater reuse appraisal study.

• Approved an agreement with RCCDC for FY 2009 that included $45,000 in participation as members and $20,000 in local economic development funds, $5,000 more than in 2008.

• Approved the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan which identifies the city’s five top capital projects for the State Legislature.

Those items include: Wastewater treatment plant upgrades and rebuild, ambulance vehicle replacement, park improvement, street improvement and Blackwater wellfield upgrades.