Report: Roosevelt County economy holding steady

Alisa Boswell

According to the 2011 Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation annual report, Portales economy is holding steady, despite nationwide economically tough times, but the city still has a strong need for more growth in industry and population.

“The big news is Portales is growing and it’s growing twice as fast as it did in the previous decade,” said RCCDC Executive Director Greg Fisher. “We grew at over 2 percent a year this last decade.”

Roosevelt County added 1,838 residents since 2000, according to the 2010 Census, for a total population of 19,846.

He said the two main reasons for Portales’ growth are Eastern New Mexico University’s record enrollment and personnel increase at Cannon Air Force Base.

“Those are the positives that keep us growing,” Fisher said. “But we need more housing. If we were to build apartments today, they would be filled within 30 to 60 days. The problem there is capital, which is affecting the whole country.”

Fisher said the main focus of RCCDC is the Industrial Park master plan, which involves a detailed study on how to meet the needs of industrial park owners and prospects. He said the plan is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

RCCDC board member and city councilor Leo Lovett said local people recognize that Portales is a great community to live in but people want to see more retail in the city.

He said the “Catch 22” of this is it’s difficult to bring in more retail without more population, but to gain more population the city needs more housing, which requires funding.

“One of our biggest goals is to complete our master plan and when complete, it will help us attract wholesale and industrial businesses that should be here for the long term,” Lovett said. “We would like to see revenue growth that can be sustained long-term.”

Fisher said wages fell by 15 percent statewide in the last year but Portales wages only fell by 4 percent.

He said Portales retail spending has been holding steady, but the community development corporation is looking for ways to boost local retail spending to slow down “leakage” to Albuquerque, Clovis and other cities.

He said retail sales for Roosevelt County are $180 million, with another $30 million leaking to larger cities.

“From an industrial standpoint, we have great rail access and trucking to and from all parts of the country. From a quality of life standpoint, while (the price of) houses are still going up, they’re still affordable,” Fisher said of the top Portales qualities.

Fisher said agri-business, which comprises one-third of Portales’ economy, has also been holding steady despite recent industry losses due to the drought.

“One of the unique things about our area is we’re not just farming; we’re taking raw materials (such as peanuts and bio-fuel) and turning them into valuable products,” Fisher said. “We do produce products that go nationally and internationally.”

Fisher said the key to bringing more housing, revenue and entertainment to the county is not only looking for new venues but improving the current ones.

“We’re constantly marketing to all industries and venues,” Fisher said. “Multi-tasking with all of those things is very important, because when an opportunity presents itself to Portales, we need to jump on it.”