Economic development official recruiting tenants for industrial park

Kevin Wilson

Hundreds of acres to pick from. Railroad and utility access available.

It’s a pitch Clovis Industrial Development Corporation officials believe is a winner when it comes to the Clovis Industrial Park.

But the 250-acre park, finished in the summer of 2008, has been slow to attract potential industries. After two-plus years, just one of the 25 lots is occupied.

When the economy tanked later that year, CIDC Executive Director Chase Gentry said so did some of the park’s prospects.

“We had a couple of projects going in there before the economy took a downturn,” said Gentry. “When the financing went down the drain … those two projects went away.”

The lone tenant is REG Fuels, on a 10-acre lot.

About 30 minutes away, the Portales Industrial Park, which has been in existence for decades, is making changes to add to what is now a roll of a half-dozen clients.

“There are four major companies and a couple of smaller ones,” Roosevelt County Development Corporation Executive Director Greg Fisher said. “There’s about 300 to 400 acres available. We’re launching into an industrial park master plan over the spring and summer.”

The four larger companies are Southwest Canners, Greatwide, DairiConcepts and Abengoa Bioenergy; the two smaller ones are Automated Dairy Systems and Portales Concrete.

The park had been established in Portales when Gentry left there to join the CIDC in 2002, and he said he came in with a goal of bringing something similar to Clovis.

So far, about $4 million has been spent at the park, Gentry estimated. But he said all but $200,000 has come from state and federal grants. A recent $1 million grant has helped build a rail spur, which gives the park access to Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s routes.

Fisher said the Portales park has always had access to the railroad, and BNSF’s rails provide an incentive for businesses with goods to transport.

“Being close to that coast-to-coast railway,” Fisher said, “as gas prices go up, is going to be more valuable.”

Clovis and Curry County have landed industries, but the two biggest — Southwest Cheese and the Tres Amigas energy project — required locations away from the park.

Southwest Cheese required a location far from city limits, Gentry said, because it needed to build its own substation and remoteness is a benefit when the bacteria processes required to make cheese are factored in.

Tres Amigas, meanwhile, requires land near the Texas border because it connects the nation’s three energy grids, which wouldn’t feasibly intersect at the industrial park location.

Many support companies are expecting to come in with Tres Amigas, but many of those are power companies that want to locate near the project to cut on energy transmission costs. Even with that in mind, Gentry thinks the growth should help the industrial park.

“With them coming in, I think the park is a good fit for different industries that might be supporting them,” Gentry said. “The thing that’s unique about our park is we’ve got rail access, and we’re right off the main line. We think we’re in a place where we’ve got a competitive advantage over a lot of communities.”

Fisher said he has been talking with biofuel and food businesses, while Gentry said he’s had early talks with a beverage manufacturing company, a wood products manufacturing company, a solar panel company, a water treatment company and a wind turbine manufacturer.

But the empty lots don’t mean the CIDC is desperate.

“The goal of the park is not to fill it up,” Gentry said. “We built it to bring in a large number of jobs. We really want something like a Southwest Cheese or an expansion (of an existing local business).”