Sen. Tom Udall visits El Charro Mexican Food Industries during a tour of the Roswell area, Wednesday morning. Mark Wilson Photo
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., led two round table discussions in Roswell on Wednesday, sitting down with city leaders to discuss veteran-owned small businesses, energy and economic development.
The senator began his visit with a tour of El Charro Tortilla Factory, where he met with former County Commissioner Michael Trujillo, owner of El Charro, members of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Development Center.
Trujillo, who served in the National Guard, raised concerns about veterans returning to the United States without adequate knowledge of the services available to them. He said too many veterans are pushed out in a matter of days, often unaware of services like health care.
“(Veterans) need those services, because you’re asking that soldier to leave his family, to leave his business or leave his job, and be able to come back and do the same thing he’s done before,” Trujillo said. “It’s not that easy.”
Udall agreed with Trujillo’s assessment, and said he would soon be meeting with the National Guard, Veterans Administration and Department of Defense to address these issues.
“At the end of 2014, all of our combat forces will be coming home from Afghanistan, and the ones from Iraq are coming even earlier,” Udall said.
“So if you look at all of the people who have served over the years, we’re talking several million. And then they’re back in the United States, and they need to have work. They can take advantage of the G.I. Bill, but as Michael said, it’s very important for them to understand all of the things that are available to them.”
Other topics at the small business round table included access to capital and unnecessary regulation.
“One of the big issues for a small-business person is how to get the capital to continue or expand business,” Udall said. “… We’re trying to work very closely with banks, and banking legislation to make sure that the banks and the credit unions have money available. …
“And we should always look at a light touch in terms of regulation. We need to protect the consumer and protect the public, but we also want our businesses to be able to grow and expand.”
Udall later met with Mayor Del Jurney, ENMU-R president John Madden, Economic Development Foundation executive director Bob Donnell, Xcel Energy regional manager Mike McLeod and others at ENMU-R to discuss energy and economic development.
Udall expressed optimism regarding the potential listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard, pointing out that 93 percent of New Mexico is now under conservation agreements.
“We’re going to have an announcement by June 14, and I think it’s going to be a win-win for everybody. I really do, with everything I’m hearing,” he said.“I really applaud the industry people and all the landowners for going out and working seriously on these conservation agreements, and doing everything they can to find the right balance there.”
Madden asked Udall for his thoughts on ENMU-R’s energy curriculum, to which Udall cautioned against specializing in one area.
“Right now we have a fast-changing energy situation,” Udall said. “You can’t really predict if there’s going to be a dramatic growth in solar, biofuels, wind, natural gas, and so with that kind of situation, it’s better to stay generic, meaning you’re teaching the basic skills that apply to all.”
Jurney and Donnell expressed their interest in bringing more business to Roswell, particularly in manufacturing. Udall said he would help the city accomplish its goals in any way possible.
“(If) a local community gets down to the last couple of companies that they’re working with and they need a phone call from me to talk about the state and the community where they’re wanting to locate, I’m willing to do that,” Udall said. “If they’re in Washington, I’m happy to have a meeting with them there. …
“I think that this part of the state is a great model for what we ought to be doing around New Mexico. There’s growth here. There’s an aggressive attitude in terms of attracting companies. There’s a very good attitude in terms of growing the companies that are here. …
“We’ve got the climate, we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the good, solid workforce, and we can get this done.”