By Steve Hansen and Thomas Garcia
Pat Vanderpool, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, found himself defending the corporation’s record Thursday at a meeting of the Tucumcari City Commission.
The corporation was the subject of a TV news story that depicted the corporation as “operating in the shadows.” That news report followed Quay County Commissioner Sue Dowell’s questioning of the county’s $50,000 per year contribution to the EDC’s operating budget, because, she said, there is no accounting to the county on how the money is used.
Dowell, however, vigorously denied any involvement with the television news segment.
“I did not contact the television station,” she said. “I am not trying to criticize the EDC. I just want to know how the county is spending its money.”
At Dowell’s request, the commission asked Warren Frost, the county’s attorney, to draw up an agreement between the EDC and the county that would include some regular reports. The commission considered a first draft of that agreement at its Aug. 11 meeting.
At Thursday’s Tucumcari city commission meeting, Vanderpool said he is going to start being more active in “telling our story,” in light of the charges of secrecy. He said, however, that because the EDC is a private, non-profit corporation, it is entitled by law to keep some confidentialities, including the corporation’s budget.
The EDC operates with allocations of $58,000 in city of Tucumcari funds and $50,000 in county funds. It also receives dues of $100 a year from individual members and $250 from business members to finance its operations, Vanderpool said.
Persons wanting to learn more about the corporation, he said, can do so by becoming members and attending EDC meetings, which are public.
Vanderpool said there are confidentialities that are necessary in order for the EDC to do its job of attracting businesses to set up or expand in the community. Failure to keep such confidences, he said, would threaten trade secrets and competitive advantage for business clients.
Even at the state level, the state economic development department maintains a level of confidentiality when dealing with local EDCs, Angela Heisel, spokesperson for the state economic development department, said.
The spokesperson said the state department will contact EDCs that have the resources that best meet the needs of a proposed business or project, Heisel said.
In addition, local EDCs are allowed by law to keep negotiations with potential clients under wraps to preserve business secrets, according to Heisel. That confidentiality, she said, helps to attract businesses to the state.
The New Mexico statute that establishes economic development corporations says an EDC is “separate and apart from the state and shall not be deemed an agency, public body or other political subdivision of New Mexico.”
Further, the act says, “meetings of the corporation shall be closed to the public when proprietary technical or business information or any information regarding location or expansion of a business is discussed.”
Such information, the act says, “shall be confidential and not subject to inspection (under) the Inspection of Public Records Act.”