Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Jobs council session studies employment factors

 

October 28, 2014

Tucumcari MainStreet director Gail Houser (left), Raymond Mondragon of the Eastern Plains Council of Governments (EPCOG), and state Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Logan) join EPCOG Executive Director Sandy Chancey (seated) in conversation at a workshop for the Legislative Jobs Council in Tucumcari. The workshop was held Oct. 21and 22 in Tucumcari.

link Tucumcari MainStreet director Gail Houser (left), Raymond Mondragon of the Eastern Plains Council of Governments (EPCOG), and state Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Logan) join EPCOG Executive Director Sandy Chancey (seated) in conversation at a workshop for the Legislative Jobs Council in Tucumcari. The workshop was held Oct. 21and 22 in Tucumcari.

QCS Managing Editor

TUCUMCARI — Job creation in eastern and northern New Mexico is hampered by lack of access to capital, workforce skills, lack of community leadership and business building inventories.

Those were consensus conclusions in a day-and-a-half workshop in Tucumcari held Oct. 21and 22. The meeting gathered government and business leaders from north central and eastern New Mexico counties to study issues related to job creation in the state.

The workshop was one in a series statewide, convened by the Legislative Jobs Council, a state Legislature interim committee that is studying job creation in New Mexico. The state placed last among the 50 states in job creation over the past five years.

Mark Lautman, an economic development specialist, is heading the study for the jobs council. He said the study’s findings will help guide future legislation designed to enhance job expansion.

Using a process that Lautman developed, his team of specialists guided the groups of community officials — a northern group and an eastern group — to develop estimates of how many jobs would be required to support projected population growth or decline over the next 10 years. The goal is to return local economies to their 2007 status, before recession struck.

Then, the groups decided how many jobs could be created under existing circumstances, considering factors like availability of investment capital, skill sets of existing workers, infrastructure and existing buildings.

The groups then focused on how to make up the difference between jobs needed and jobs that can develop, and what industries and career areas to target.

In Curry County, for example, a gap of a few hundred jobs was projected. In Quay county, where a population increase was projected despite recent population decline, a gap of more than 2,000 jobs was projected.

In a free-wheeling discussion at the end of the session, participants offered many views on the current situation and future directions.

“It’s hard for startup businesses to get capital,” said Sandy Chancey, director of the Eastern Plains Council of Governments. “In the past five to seven years, lending has really tightened up.”

In addition, she said, communities are having a hard time funding road, water systems and other infrastructure projects. As tax revenues have shrunk, she said, it has become difficult for communities to raise matching funds for grants.

Raymond Mondragon, EPCOG’s economic and community development planner, said Local Economic Development Act funding can help, as can industrial revenue bonds. IR bonds helped Clayton land the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility, which employs 225.

“There are lots of ways to be creative” in funding, Mondragon said.

Gail Houser, the new director of Tucumcari’s MainStreet program, said U.S. Department of Agriculture funding can sometimes fill in gaps for a startup firm seeking to develop creditworthiness.

Roger Gonzalez, a consultant for Mora County, said, “We’ve got to get away from expecting government leadership to solve these problems. Without the private sector, we’re creating artificial solutions. We need to prepare a new generation with entrepreneurial skills and a private-sector mindset.”

Lautman said Albuquerque is suffering from a loss of private-sector leadership as a generation of entrepreneurs leaves leadership roles there.

After the session, Gene Hendrick, manager of the Business Enterprise Center of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp. was uncertain how valuable the job council’s study would be, especially since some of the conclusions were based on guess work.

He said he is also not likely to change the way in which the CIDC explores prospective businesses for recruitment. The CIDC will continue to pursue likely candidates from those presented by the state’s economic development partnership, he said.

It would be more helpful if state and local governments would cooperate in delivering on promises made to businesses considering relocation to state sites, he added.

Lautman said the data in his examination of state and local job creation concerns will be refined as the study advances.

 

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