By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
A plan to use vacant, city-owned land to attract and retain businesses in Tucumcari got an enthusiastic reception at a public workshop on Tuesday but no action.
Under the plan, the city would make some abandoned properties and buildings it owns available to new or expanding business at low or no cost, thus providing an incentive for businesses to grow or locate in Tucumcari, according to Fifth District Commissioner John Mihm, the idea’s chief promoter.
Mihm said he was very encouraged by the positive response the idea generated among city commissioners, business owners and economic development leaders.
At Tuesday’s workshop, a group of supporters and onlookers heard presentations from Vicki Watson, director of the Small Business Development Center at Mesalands Community College; Pat Vanderpool, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp., Rob Morper, a real estate broker and auctioneer based in Tucumcari, and representatives from MainStreet Tucumcari and the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce.
Watson proposed a series of steps that the plan’s development could follow, including establishment of processes and procedures, program promotion and client recruitment, property development, setting commitments, goals and objectives and continuing management assistance.
She said the small-business center could help business owners who take advantage of the land offer with planning, forms and applications and counseling.
Richard Primrose, county manager and a member of the economic development board, said he likes the idea of offering properties as an incentive for business but mentioned concern about Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) restrictions on giving property away.
Watson said one of the most attractive features of offering city properties to businesses is the incentive it provides to local businesses, new and established, to locate or expand on home ground.
She said that Paducah, Ky., used a similar program to attract artists to set up shop in a historic part of the city, which has helped revitalize the city of 25,000 people.
Rob Morper, who operates a multi-state real estate brokerage and auction business from Tucumcari, read a statement in which he talked about growing up in Tucumcari when it was thriving and his dismay at returning to the city to find that its economy and population have diminished with no plans to revitalize.
“Tucumcari is a dying community,” he said. “But Tucumcari has unlimited potential.”
He pointed out that Tucumcari is located at the intersection of Interstate 40 and U.S. 54, and has Union Pacific Railroad tracks running through town, two lakes nearby and a 100-year water supply.
He asked how, with all these features, Tucumcari “continues to stagnate and go downhill.”
Tourism, he said, should be a major draw for the city, but the city “is not even scratching the surface” of what it could be doing in that regard.
Morper also said the city should ensure that all its exits from I-40 be lighted. Two have received new lighting in recent years, but the others should have lighting restored, according to Morper.
The city would appear more welcoming to travelers on I-40 if it did, he said.
Morper also proposed the city purchase and prepare the abandoned Shell truck shop property on the west side of town, put lighting in for the west side Route 66 exits from I-40 and auction the property.