City seeks to improve area workforce

By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The City of Tucumcari and the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation plan to apply for a rural business development grant to create and fund an office to help train the area’s existing workforce.

The grant of as much as $100,000 is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will be used to set up and fund a Workforce Solutions office in Tucumcari, said City Manager Jared Langenegger.

Langenegger said with grant approval, the new office will be locally operated and will be different than the previous office (now closed) that was part of the state’s unemployment office. He said establishing this office in Tucumcari is vital to the city’s and region’s economic growth.

Langenegger said a Workforce Solutions office would start from a technical aspect to evaluate the area’s current workforce and its skill level. He said there also would be an evaluation of the region’s job projections, what skills are required for those positions, identify the gap between the workers’ skill levels from those required and develop a plan to close that gap.

EDC Executive Director Patrick Vanderpool said potential businesses always are looking for three main factors when selecting a location for expansion: existing building/warehouse space, capital incentives, such as money/tax benefits and a workforce large enough to operate their business.

Vanderpool said the city’s workforce would not be adequate to satisfy a potential company’s demand. He said this is a factor that the city and region must correct to see economic growth.

Vanderpool said future services that could be offered through the office would include development of specialized training to help train the workforce for the needs of a potential business looking to move to the area. He said having a program in place to train a work force to meet business needs would make Tucumcari and Quay County attractive to companies.

Vanderpool said there is also the possibility for the use of Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds in the construction and set up of a new office.
LEDA funds are collected from a special gross receipts tax for use in encouraging local economic development.

Recently, LEDA allocated $141,830 to help Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory’s planned $4.5 million expansion; it allocated $70,000 to assist Buena Vista Labs, LLC, a company that makes vision-correction lenses and sells frames. The expansion will allow the cheese factory to add the production of ricotta, Edam and Gouda cheeses, while Buena Vista plans to install lens-processing equipment that will enable the company to make new kinds of lenses.

Langenegger presented this plan as a discussion item to city commissioners Thursday during the city manager’s report.

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