Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

EDC meets with locals


March 27, 2019

Ron Warnick

Patrick Vanderpool, left, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp., chats with resident Tommy Snapp as he and Bea Laredo get pizza during a meet-and-greet meeting March 18 at the Tucumcari Convention Center's Liberty Room.

Five Tucumcari residents attended the first of weekly meet-and-greet meetings held March 18 by the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation's executive director to explain to the public what the organization seeks to do.

Patrick Vanderpool, executive director of the EDC, said the meetings would be at noon each Monday through May 20 at the Tucumcari Convention Center's Liberty Room.

After that, Vanderpool said he would assess how often to keep meeting.

"I think it was a good start," Vanderpool said following the first meeting. "We'll see what we do with the summer."

During the March 18 session over pizza, Vanderpool discussed issues facing Tucumcari and the EDC's goals with Karen Alarcon, Phillip Box, Tommy Snapp and Bea Laredo.

Vanderpool acknowledged pointed questioning by at least two members of the Tucumcari City Commission during its Feb. 14 meeting about the organization's effectiveness prompted the EDC meet-and-greet.

"It became pretty apparent to me at the last city commission meeting we need to do a better job letting the community know what we're doing," he said. "And it's kind of an educational process. I would love to have more people involved in what we're trying to do in terms of marketing, build a better product, work on some of the projects we've got."

Among the ongoing EDC projects Vanderpool cited were efforts to revitalize Five Mile Park, the closed Kmart building and the abandoned west-side Shell Truck Plaza, a setting up a food co-op, working with Tucumcari Biofuels to revamp their operations, a Tucumcari aquaponics project and other regional initiatives.

During the March 18 meeting, Vanderpool offered each guest a 15-page handout titled "Economic Development 101" and began discussions from there.

Vanderpool said the region could be looked at as a barrel where money flows into it, but it contains leaks.

"It's a problem when more goes out than comes in," he said.

A 2015 retail-market survey indicated Quay County generated $115 million in total retail sales, of which $56 million funnels outside the county, Vanderpool said.

Box said Tucumcari needs more locally owned businesses.

"You drove Route 66 back in the 1960s, they were locally owned," Box said of the city's heyday before the interstate-highway era.

Vanderpool said most incentives offered by the state to prospective employers were designed for manufacturing jobs and not service industries.

When Alarcon asked Vanderpool whether he had visited existing Tucumcari businesses to get feedback, Vanderpool acknowledged "that's something I'm not real good at" but said he's interacted with many business owners through the Rotary Club.

Laredo said: "The EDC has been an asset to small businesses that come in."

Box said Vanderpool "needs more volunteers" to help him with his efforts.

"That's one of the reasons we're doing this today," Vanderpool replied.

He said the EDC wasn't designed just to attract jobs, but to improve residents' quality of life - hence one reason he wants to redevelop Five Mile Park into a tourism attraction and recreational site.

He also said some prospective residents are attracted to Tucumcari's more "slowed down, laid-back" atmosphere compared to urban areas.

Vanderpool said the EDC also has to consider whether to address poverty. He said businesses often look at a region's poverty rate when choosing or rejecting a site. The U.S. Census estimates Quay County has a poverty rate of 23.9 percent, above the state average of 19 percent.

He said the region's economy also is subject to state and federal edicts it cannot control.

"You work on the policies you have control over," he said.

Vanderpool said the EDC's code of ethics also prevent him from being too open about conversations with businesspeople unless such projects receive public money. Otherwise, such talks can remain confidential.

In the end, the "three big things" the EDC wants to do is attract new businesses, retain and expand existing businesses and build a better project for them.

Concluding the 90-minute meeting, Vanderpool said: "We'll take what we've found out here and expand on it (in future meetings)."

Vanderpool declined to reveal his salary during the meeting, saying it's a private organization.


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