By Mary Alice Murphy

At the monthly Gila Economic Development Alliance Roundtable, participants give reports from their businesses or sectors that would be of interest to others.

Melanie Goodman of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's office said that two years ago, Udall partnered in a water stakeholder forum, which issued a report for 40 possible actions. "He has just introduced four water efficiency bills to improve water efficiency and encourage efficiencies. He has also asked for funding for Smart Water Systems as a pilot program. The bills promote Water-Sense conservation, which is the equivalent of Energy-Sense; Blue Bank, which encourages reuse; water efficiency incentives; and the Community Water Enhancement Act."

"I'm excited to announce the Forest Service has applied for federal highway funding of $4.4 million to help restore the Catwalk," Goodman said. (The Beat received a notice today of receipt of that funding at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/non-local-news-releases/15568-udall-heinrich-announce-4-4-million-for-repairs-to-catwalk-trail-in-gila-national-forest )

Grant County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said he is working on his economic development certification and recently attended workforce development training. "There was a lot of good information. I want to do a formal report and then an economic development forum. There's a lot of international money coming into the U.S. We have to think of the possibilities with the expansion of the port in Luna County."

Kim Clark of the Realtors Association said first quarter real estate results are better than last year at the same time. "We are working with the Grant County Community Health Council and the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments on a housing fair on June 14. The target is low- to moderate-income buyers."

She said Interstate Stream Commission Deputy Director Craig Roepke gave a presentation the prior day to the SWNM Council of Governments. "We are coordinating getting him back in May to present to local groups.

Insurance First owner Chelsea Hotchkiss mentioned the availability of WOW experience seminars for customer service training.

Paul Leetmae of Lawley Automotive suggested Zig Ziglar training.

Cynthia Martinez, Small Business Development Center director, said the center has a series of DVDs on motivation.

Cissy McAndrew, representing the Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce and the Silver City Arts and Cultural District, handed out Continental Divide Trail maps. She reported tourism is up about 12 percent. "The Visitor Center is open seven days a week, and closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Silver City has been featured in three national publications—Smithsonian, Travel & Leisure and Peaks and Plains. We are moving forward. The map pads are out and the Visitor Guide is being updated. More than 13,000 have gone out over the past year."

Skip Thacker, Gila EDA member, asked if there had been any reaction to the ad in Times Square.

"We have had no direct reaction," McAndrew said. "It's usually about three months before we see a result. We keep stats. We use a team approach and have a meeting the second Thursday of every month at 9 a.m."

L.J. Lundy, Gila EDA member, noted that in real estate, the area had had, within the past few years, no sales over $500,000, but there have been three in the past couple of months.

McAndrew said the $6 million sale of the Buckhorn Ranch had closed the day before.

Joel Schram of AmBank said the bank had a decent year last year, with an increase of 11 percent in loan volume. "We are seeing business activity and we have plenty to loan. We are partnering with First American Bank."

"Western Bank has money to loan, too," Pam Archibald, representing the bank, said.

Gila EDA board chairman Jeremiah Garcia noted both were hometown banks.

Cynthia Martinez, Small Business Development Center director, said she and Dora Morales had been "running around to the four counties we serve. In Deming, we collaborate with the banks, chamber and entrepreneurs to provide successful workshops."

"We are in partnership with other organizations to get the word out that we're here," Martinez continued. "We have a lot of space in Watts Hall. We want more traffic. We're talking about a small business incubator, where we would rent space. We're trying to tap into federal money for better speed Internet.

"One focus is to meet with the bankers to make sure a person wanting to start a business is prepared before going to the bank for a loan," she said.

Gutierrez noted that, with the help of a Freeport McMoRan Community Investment Fund grant, Aldo Leopold High School and Cobre Schools are working on an entrepreneurial course for students.

Kevin Cook, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. New Mexico Operations Community Development manager, said one of the priorities of the Community Investment Fund is economic development. "That is often the weakest area in a Community Investment Fund application." Relative to an incubator, he said a friend of his in Ohio is one of the top four in the world.

"We are trying to promote the company's best kept secrets," Cook said. "Please keep in mind that the company has 1,650 employees locally, and the company's matching gift program can be used by any of them. Any contribution between $25 and $1,000 will be matched to a non-profit."

He said it was Global Volunteer Month at the mine. "We've been working with The Volunteer Center to deliver 300 backpacks of food every weekend."

The next Gila EDA Roundtable is set for May 16, with venue to be announced.


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