Officials at odds over lack of new businesses

Argen Duncan

The national credit crunch is affecting Portales, although opinions differ on how.

Several local businesses — Papa Murphy’s, Movie Gallery and La Hacienda — have closed their doors for different reasons during what Roosevelt County Community Development Director Greg Fisher calls a tough time for retail. In addition, Fisher believes strict credit requirements by lending institutions are a major barrier to national chain retailers moving into the area.

However, banker Doug Stone says credit has less to do with whether large chains locate in the area than population, taxes and other factors.

“(The) credit crunch has come about from the over-regulation that has come about since the big banks had irresponsible practices in their lending practices,” said Stone, executive vice president of James Polk Stone Community Bank.

Those practices contributed to the worldwide economic recession, he said. Now, banks are stricter in their lending decisions because of new regulations.

Stone said new lending regulations make it harder for banks to work with people, but also said small banks in the area are doing the same as they always have and taking care of customers.

He said some customers may feel the credit crunch because they may have too much debt. They are paying down their debt and saving more, as they should in a tight economy, Stone said.

Fisher said the credit market is coming back, but more slowly than had been predicted. He doesn’t expect national retailers to move into the Portales area until the credit market is better.

“It’s a difficult time in retail because sales are down in most places,” Fisher said, “and banks aren’t lending money to open new stores.”

It’s hard to get loans for any big project, such as opening a restaurant or creating a housing development, he continued.

Fisher said the area has opportunities in retail, but businesses can’t take advantage of them because of lack of credit.