New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela meets with local business leaders in Roswell, Tuesday, on his Job Creation Tour throughout the state. Pictured at left is Amado “Sonny” Espinoza, III. (Emily Russo Miller Photo)
New Mexico Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela met with local business leaders in Roswell, Tuesday afternoon, as part of his Job Creation Tour throughout the state.
The meeting was intended to gather feedback before crafting a job creation bill, or series of bills, for the upcoming 2012 legislative session that would help New Mexico become more competitive in the marketplace, he says.
â€œIâ€™ve been to over 30 communities now since Iâ€™ve been secretary,â€ he said. â€œThe only way you can really learn and understand and get a feel for what we need to do next is to get on the ground and understand businesses and the local dynamics within each economy.â€
Barela went on to praise Roswellâ€™s diverse economy, which is driven mostly by the oil, gas and energy, dairy, agriculture and aviation industries, and called the city a â€œbright lightâ€ for New Mexico.
â€œIt is what a local economy should be striving to do,â€ he said, also noting that manufacturing businesses, like Leprino Foods, and educational institutions, like New Mexico Military Institute, help drive the local economy. â€œWhat an amazing, diversified economy.â€
Local business people, in turn, told Barela about new projects they are working on, and what obstacles they have encountered along the way.
Gerry Greathouse, with Natureâ€™s Dairy located in East Grand Plains, told the secretary that his dairy product company recently received funding from the Department of Energy to develop a renewable energy project to later serve as a template for other dairies that would make methane gas out of manure to sell to an interested energy company. One problem heâ€™s run into is permitting requirements, he says.
â€œWe will need all the support from the state once we have a plan to move it forward to this permitting process,â€ Greathouse said.
Guy Tipton, an engineer with NuMex, manufacturers of plastic piping in south Roswell, advocated for a 1,000-foot-long railroad spur off the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe line between Clovis and Loving that includes both the Loving and Carlsbad spurs that run 20 miles from Carlsbad to the Intrepid Potash Mines. That railroad, operated by Southwestern Railroad, handles approximately 30,000 carloads annually using four GP40s and six GP40-2 locomotives, under the workforce of 30 employees, according to its website.
â€œThereâ€™s several other (companies) in Texas that weâ€™re competing with, and without a rail spur, we canâ€™t compete,â€â€ˆTipton said. â€œItâ€™s imperative that we have some place to spot our cars in there.â€
Other business people brought up difficulties with construction codes, transportation costs and liquor licenses, which can range anywhere between $250,000 to $400,000 in Roswell.
Barela called the liquor licenses â€œa thorny issueâ€ that seems to be a recurring problematic theme for businesses across the state. He added that while he will make sure these issues are heard at a state level, there is only so much the state can do in the face of federal regulations implemented by President Barack Obamaâ€™s administration, something he says he was critical of when running as a Republican for New Mexicoâ€™s 1st Congressional District last year. He was narrowly defeated by Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich.
â€œI can only do so much, and the governor can only do so much to try to get our economy moving again in the state,â€ he said. â€œBut when you have a wet blanket being thrown on economic development at the national level … it makes our job much more difficult and much more complex.â€