Area experiencing positive economic signs

Roosevelt and Curry counties are thriving in areas of wage increases and employment in a state that remains one of the three poorest in the nation, according to a recent Census Bureau report.

Sue Stockly, Eastern New Mexico University associate professor of economics, says New Mexico is a poverty-stricken state but she feels wage increases over the years and small drops of unemployment indicate things are getting better.

"New Mexico is definitely doing worse but I don't think it would apply to our particular area because we've had a lot of growth in our economy," Stockly said. "With (Cannon Air Force Base) and ENMU enrollment growth, those two big factors have kept our local economy going."

Stockly says Roosevelt and Curry counties are doing better because of the changes in annual wages over the years.

According to University of New Mexico statistics, annual wages in Roosevelt County increased by 1.5 percent in 2011 from 2010. Curry County's annual wages increased 3.5 percent and have not seen a drop in the past 10 years.

"Curry County is doing really well compared to the rest of the state," Stockly said. "They never had a drop in wages. So we see wages have been going up in the past two years for both counties."

Stockly cited unemployment as another indicator that suggests Roosevelt and Curry counties are doing better.

"New Mexico unemployment rates have been really bad and slow to fall but that isn't the case for Roosevelt and Curry counties," she said.

According to the Census Bureau, unemployment dropped in Roosevelt County from 5.6 percent in 2010 to 5.1 percent in 2011. Curry County also experienced a slight drop in unemployment from 5.3 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2011.

Even with certain indicators suggesting financial situations are getting better for people in Roosevelt and Curry counties, those numbers haven't translated and reflected in the poverty levels.

According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate is an estimate of the proportion of people with family or personal income below their poverty threshold. For example, the poverty threshold for a single person under 65 years of age is an income of $11,702.

In 2010, poverty levels for the state and both counties were higher than the country's rate, and in Roosevelt County's case, higher than the state's.

The national poverty rate in 2010 was 15.3 percent. New Mexico and Curry County had a poverty rate of 19.8 percent and Roosevelt County was at 24.5 percent.

Ona Porter, president and chief executive of Prosperity Works, says she feels lawmakers and representatives do not make an effort to change the poverty rates.

"I think that people think that there's no effective solutions," Porter said.

Prosperity Works is an organization that provides and teaches strategies to local New Mexico organizations to move families into the middle class.

"We actually free people of poverty," Porter said. "We design high-impact out of poverty strategies. We focus on developing assets of low-income people."

Porter says 54 percent of their participants are in rural New Mexico because their needs are often neglected. She added that they're trying to have a larger presence in eastern New Mexico.

"Some of the things (officials) need to refocus on are making their investments in economic developments into initiatives such as ours," she said.

She added that we don't hold out-of-state employers accountable for promises they don't keep in terms of hiring within the local economy.

"New Mexicans do not benefit from that," Porter said.

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