Editor's Note: This is the final part of the Gila Economic Development Alliance Roundtable meeting held Friday, May 31. The featured speaker was Furniture Gallery owner, Jeremy Lewis. His talk was covered in Part 1. This article covers updates and reports from community officials, community members and organization representatives.
County Commission Chairman Brett Kasten reported on a recent meeting he attended in Santa Rosa.
"We heard a presentation on tire-derived fuel," Kasten said. "The company uses old tires to provide energy to cook a mixture into cement. The process would use every tire in New Mexico. I will invite them down to give a presentation."
He said the county recently adopted a Notice of Intent to pass a bond to fund quality of life issues to be paid for through a gross receipts tax, which must go before voters.
"We will pass the ordinance on the election process at our meeting June 13," Kasten said. "We have met with the smaller communities in the county to promote the bond issue."
He reported that recycling is at 21 percent in Silver City, which may be the largest percentage in the state. "We are going out for contract with the Southwest Solid Waste Authority to start recycling in the smaller communities."
Hurley Mayor Edward Encincas said, although the town has very little available property, it is working on getting business to come into the town. "Our revenue is very limited, with water bills providing most of our revenue. We invite economic development into our town. Six Hurley students were chosen to go to Washington, D.C. We are proud of them. "
Melanie Goodman, representing U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's office said the senator had met with community bankers. "He asked them to come to him with solutions. Where there is an opportunity to get government out of the way, he's for that, too." She said Congress was working on appropriation bills, with military construction having an impact on the state. "You have quite a significant population of veterans in Grant County." Veteran-related language encouraged the Veterans Administration to reach out to veterans for health care and to reduce the backlog on veteran claims. Goodman said Secretary Eric Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs had announced an effort to address the older claims. She said Congress is also working on comprehensive immigration reform and the Farm Bill. Small business research work in Grant County could fit in with the national laboratories in the state. Another issue Congress is working on is the Travel Promotion Act to bring in foreign visitors with transportation dollars. The Hire Act is a small business jobs act, according to Goodman. "Udall is proposing assuring contractor equity working with bases and national labs." Funding for MainStreet would also level the playing field for small businesses. "He will also introduce a standard home office deduction for home-based businesses at $1,500."
Kasten said to Goodman that when she was still working for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, they were working to get veterans to be allowed to get health services locally.
"I think we can continue to discuss that," Goodman said. "The V.A. does things the way it does, but I will check into the issue."
Abe Villarreal from Western New Mexico University said the summer semester would begin Monday, June 3. "One of the courses is a mosaic course partnering with the Mimbres Region Arts Council to complete a mural on the 12th Street Bridge. On June 30, we are targeting small businesses, so they can learn the best practices for social media. The university does have co-op programs. We have a new director of Career Services, Darrell Scott."
Gila EDA President Jeremiah Garcia asked to hear from businesses.
Alex Ocheltree of Billy's BBQ said he loves the support with Western. "What took us so long?" He said he has a problem with the bond issue, because the elephant in the room is the voter. "They will look at it and say: 'What's in it for me?' A little tweaking, along with publicity and marketing will make it work. One the swimming pool issue, make it a Community Swim Center, with not just a large pool, but a community pool and a kiddie pool for the grandkids, maybe with a slide."
Sammy Silva said he was speaking for his consulting business, Old School Consulting. "It's not really a consulting business in Grant County, but I go in from the business point-of-view and the workforce view. Even businesses aren't buying locally; the city and county are not buying local; not even the state is. For instance Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. is buying their paper and reliability products using a corporate contract. I see a lot of people underemployed, but as a business they can't afford to pay more."
Gordon West, proprietor of several small businesses, said he offers a couple of products. Gila Wood Products moves small diameter wood into viable products. Zerosion, by Restoration Technologies, is used on a demonstration site on Freeport Cobre property. "I'm trying to develop it to be franchisable. We are now sourcing cardboard from Grant County, which is being sold to an insulation manufacturer, from whom we buy. We want to manufacture it here, so we can export it."
Tony Trujillo, Gila EDA member and board member of the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce, said the latter is a full working board. "Our main focus at the moment is the Fourth of July parade and vendors in Gough Park. We are starting interviews for director. We have great applicants. We are continuing the cash mobs, the Alive at 5, and ribbon cuttings. Christine Steele of the Sun-News will, at our next luncheon, show how to build press releases."
Cissy McAndrew of the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce said tourism is up, and the Silver City Museum said visitors are up 30 percent. "The rental market is up for mining workers. We held a workshop yesterday (Thursday) with PNM offering to upgrade businesses up to 60 percent to be more energy efficient. We can't keep up with solar. We're trying to get more contractors trained in renewable energy. We need good builders. We feel energized about the Murray Hotel. Occupancy is up. We are working on risk assessment, and looking at water conservation. We will hold a workshop on natural gas. On the second Thursdays, we have green drinks at Shevek's. I encourage you to attend meetings throughout the month. We are looking for an outreach assistant, and we are always looking for volunteers at the Visitor Center. On June 22, we will hold a solar tour for folks to see various projects in Grant County."
L.J. Lundy, Realtor, said the real estate business is seeing more retirees moving to the area, leaving their Midwestern furniture to buy Southwest decor.
Silva, wearing his Workforce Solutions hat, advised businesses to use the assessments and business services on the website. "We are diligently working on programs to fulfill community needs. Most students coming out of high school are not prepared to go into the work force. We need workforce specialists in the schools."
Sam Castello of The Wellness Coalition said the Youth Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps were gearing up for the summer. TWC offers the Individual Development Accounts for those wishing to start a business, buy a home or increase their education. "We have had 90 savers, with 60 this year. They each went through a financial literacy course and saved $1,000, which was matched with $4,000. They also receive associated services." He said the YCC was set for its biggest year yet in Hidalgo, Catron and Grant counties, with 36 youths from 16-25 years of age enrolled. "They are working at Bataan Park and the so-called Great Wall behind the Public Safety Building. They get paid and are introduced to working as a team. We are waiting to hear whether AmeriCorps was funded again for three years. We have had 90 positions in six counties over the past three years. This is our fourth year for youths 11-17 years of age, doing volunteer projects. We have had 24 projects for six weeks each. We have two AmeriCorps proposals in. One is from El Paso to Tucson, where we will support veterans and military families, helping them re-integrate into society."
William Dobricky of the Small Business Development Center said he would be happy to give a presentation to the Roundtable.
Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition is hoping to soon hear about its 501c3 status that has been in the pipeline since March 2012.
Tiffany Knauf, Grant County Community Health Council coordinator, said the group is working on a grant to address youth abuse of prescription drugs and underage drinking. Focus groups will be held to create an assessment on the problem. The Health Council is seeking an intern for this summer and next year to work 10 to 15 hours a week, with flexible hours around school. The Community Profile, based on last year's Community Assessment, is in its final stages. "Let us know about any items that need to be on the community calendar, which goes out to a list serve of about 1,000 people. At the next health council meeting at 3 p.m. June 17, (Western New Mexico University President Joseph) Shepard and (Silver City) Mayor James Marshall will present on the quality of life bond issue."
Priscilla Lucero of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments said it would host on June 11 a workshop by the New Mexico Economic Development Department on the Collateral Support Loan Program. "We submitted 20 Colonias applications on behalf of local governments. We have $6 million to $8 million in requests, and the awards will be announced June 13. I am serving on a broadband committee. We have applied for a pilot project on broadband. We also responded to a request for proposal to host the Rural Economic Development forum here next year. Emily Gojkovich of our office surveyed high school students on vocational training. We had an article in an industry publication."
Maureen Craig, representing the Mimbres Region Arts Council, said it has started a friend of the festival group, either for Pickamania! or the Blues Festival. "We are Mimbres Arts on Facebook. We have received the Governor's Award for Excellent in the Arts. We continue to work on the youth mural on the 12th Street Bridge. It is very exciting that the Southern New Mexico Community Foundation has established an endowment fund for MRAC. We are working to make it grow."
Trini Tolar of Casa de la Cultura said the group is restructuring its goals to help Hispanic youths to reach their potential. Volunteers with the group will help Hispanic youths to have their voice heard.
Silva asked Lucero about Memorial 65. Lucero said it passed, but COG had submitted and was denied funding for equipment to develop the vocational-technical education program. "We are looking for more private partnerships."
Sandy Feutz, who with her husband Tom Vaughn own FeVa Fotos, pointed out that galleries are part of economic development and one of the reasons why people move to the area. Vaughn said: "We love Silver City, but we miss the Cortez (Colorado) Recreation Center. It's an asset, and grandmas love it."
Ocheltree said a swim center would attract a lot of people. "Fun is a big part of the quality of life."
Earl Montoya, self-described community watchdog, said: "We need to talk to the Forest Service. The forest is closed until July 1. A lot of people come here to go to the forest. We also need a map to show our outdoor artwork."
(Editor's Note: The Gila National Forest is not closed, but it does have fire restrictions in place, because of dry conditions.)
McAndrew said MRAC has developed a brochure with a map to the outdoor artwork.
The next Roundtable meeting will be held at 8:30, Friday, June 21, venue TBA.