Tucumcari can only declare itself a winner this week, even though Raton was the chosen site for New Mexico’s last horse track and casino operation.
The reason is the community, inside and outside the town boundaries, won’t abandon its efforts to rebuild our economic base. Many have said they will retool and readjust, just as so many other American towns, cities and villages have done in rebuilding once-thriving foundations that had disappeared in the dust storms of unending, timeless change.
The lessons learned in trying to bring Coronado Park to life were many. But none was stronger than personal conviction.
Some 1,400 Tucumcari and Quay County residents and track supporters showed theirs at a hearing a few weeks ago. Their presence meant they are convinced this town is the place to be — not to be from.
Outside of a high school football game or two, support like that, in one place for one purpose, hasn’t been visible for many years.
Thank you to all who attended, and to the members of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, the Quay County Gaming Authority, Don Chalmers and David Vance and the Coronado Park contingent.
Let’s not forget that rebuilding the local economy would not have been complete even if Tucumcari had been chosen at Monday’s racing commission meeting in Albuquerque. This drive was just one step along a long path to creating a diverse and stable economic future.
Tucumcari’s 20th century development successes began eroding in the 1970s with the shift in tourism and truck traffic trundling along Route 66 through town to zipping along I-40 around the town. Then came the loss of hundreds of well-paying railroad and trucking jobs that were moved elsewhere.
There is little time, or need, to mourn Monday’s racino vote in favor of Raton. In fact, let’s stop doing that today. Let’s start using the strengths that effort forged to seed the development efforts needed to be successful again and again over the next decade or two.
Too much is at stake when our population, which could be a future workforce, moves away year after year.
It is fitting, in this centennial year of Tucumcari’s incorporation, that we immediately focus our efforts and create a plan to ensure this small town will not become a ghost of a town along I-40 sometime in the next 100 years.
That’s the real horse race we want — and need — to win.