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Gila EDA Roundtable Hears from WNM Communications

By Charlie McKee

Board Member Tony Trujillo chaired the August 16, 2013, meeting of the Gila Economic Development Alliance Roundtable and began by introducing Scott Terry, the newly hired Executive Director of the Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

Trujillo then introduced this month's guest speaker, Dave Thomas, President and General Manager of Western New Mexico (WNM) Communications.  Thomas's presentation focused on the fact that WNM Communications is a local presence with two offices in Grant County, unlike its primary competitor Century Link, which has no local presence. WNM employs 52 people here, 42 of which are located within the county.  He noted that its advantages to local residents are: personalized service from a local vendor; dual communications pathways to outside networks, providing redundancy and backup for stability of communication services; and partnership with PNM in 13 miles of fiber optic cable, separate from Century Link and Comcast.  In addition, Thomas announced that WNM had acquired BroCom in January 2013, in concert with its goal to be a single source vendor.

Thomas also emphasized the company's economic contribution to the local community in its investment of approximately $3 million annually in local facility improvements.  In addition, Thomas strives to make WNM an integral part of the community by supporting local events such as the rodeo and numerous golf tournaments, as well as providing $500 scholarships to deserving local students.  Thomas's goal locally is to "do business with each other and support each other."

When asked by the audience, Thomas explained his workforce needs in Grant County as being somewhat restricted in that WNM's employee retention record is outstanding.  WNM's employees have an average of 29 years of experience.  However, this in itself indicates an aging workforce, and there is a current need for skilled workers in telephony installation and repair.  Also in the short-term, there will be a requirement for accounting and financial expertise, as Thomas promotes from within.  Thomas noted, however, that there is always a need for high quality sales personnel "who can articulate what this business is about in an understandable way."

Following Thomas's presentation, there were several announcements from the attendees:
•    In response to questions from the attendees, Grant County Commissioner Ron Hall stated that the Gross Receipts Tax ballot was intentionally made "vague" with respect to the five projects to be funded by the tax on advice from a bonds attorney.  The group then discussed means of getting the word out to residents to vote for the tax increase.  The consensus of the attendees was that electronic social media was the best choice at this late date.
•    WNMU's Bash on Broadway and Dr. Shepard's State of the University address are scheduled for Friday evening, August 16.
•    MRAC will be an honored recipient of the 2013 Governor's Arts Awards on September 27 in Santa Fe.  In addition, the MRAC Annual Meeting will be held on August 22 at 5:30 pm at The Commons.
•    A new film is being shot on location at Fort Bayard and needs young men as extras.  Those interested should contact Arlene Schadel.
•    Lifequest will be celebrating its 40-year anniversary on September 20 at noon in the Lifequest parking lot.  Murray Ryan will be the honored guest.
•    PNM has grants available to non-profit organizations for reducing energy costs.

Lastly, Trujillo announced that the next Roundtable meeting will be on September 20, 2013, and then adjourned the meeting.

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