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Gila EDA Roundtable hear community reports, part 2

Editor's Note: This is the final article in a two-part series on the Gila EDA Alliance Roundtable meeting. The first can be accessed at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/9132-gila-eda-roundtable-hears-from-community-bankers

Participants in the Gila Economic Development Alliance on Friday heard reports from community agencies and organizations, offering resources.

Grant County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said he has been focused on the capital improvements to the Administration Center and the Business and Conference Center. "We are continuing with the development of an industrial park plan and infrastructure."

He spoke to a discussion about buying local, which was covered in the first article. "If a local business can't meet estimates for projects or purchases, it is difficult to purchase locally.  The bid process is unfair because larger areas can meet the prices. We have to be competitive. Governmental agencies are spending everyone's money."

Sammy Silva of Workforce Connections commented that entities have to purchase on performance. Putting on his personal hat, he said: "My business gives to charity. I'm trying to get people to use local lubrication engineers. I'm giving 25  to the Chicano Music Festival, so I'm investing in the community."

Hurley Mayor Edward Encinas said the bid process takes a lot of time, when the entity is trying for the lowest price. "We want to do it locally, but when we get the best price outside the area, we have to go with it. I concur that we need local businesses to be competitive. They have to get on the state contracts."

The Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition is taking tiny steps toward being an engine of economic development, Mary Alice Murphy, member of the group, said. She reported that the "albatross" of the campus is the old hospital, and that a bill has been introduced to demolish the structure. She pointed out that it stands on the historic parade ground of the fort, so the land could be used again for events.  Gutierrez said the county is hoping to receive the brownfields grant for which it applied. Because the fort was also a medical center after 1900 when disposal methods of tuberculosis medical materials were less sophisticated, "until we find out what's there and get these things addressed, we can't do anything."

Cissy McAndrew, the Southwest Green Chamber of Commerce director, said her agency has resources. As a Realtor, she talked about the mention of appraisals earlier in the meeting. "Those in foreclosure cannot be compared with not foreclosed houses that have sold. The banks are making sure that housing values are accurate. The problem is when people bought into the height of the market, they want to be paid back, so houses sit there. In real estate, we're feeling good, and we always try to direct buyers to local banks."

She mentioned another problem caused by those who do not buy local: "They expect Paul (Leetmae of Lawley Toyota and Lawley Ford) to service their cars for them. "

Kim Clark, Association Executive and Government Affairs director of
Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS®, Inc., said another reason to shop local is so local businesses can support area organizations.

McAndrew said the Green Chamber would be holding an event at 5:30 Monday evening to celebrate Morningstar's 21st anniversary. Tuesday at 6:30 at the Global Resource Center, the state climatologist will speak on the area's climate future.

Lucy Whitmarsh, Silver City MainStreet Project board of directors' president, said the Silver City Town Council on Tuesday evening had passed the Metropolitan Redevelopment Act for rehabilitation or redevelopment of downtown to maintain its historic integrity. "As a community, we need to get behind the Silver City Theater District Plan. We are bringing the Silco up to the level to be able to show first-run movies. It is a critical redevelopment piece that will bring people into downtown to the movies and to shop."

McAndrew pointed out that on the MainStreet website are buildings for sale and business opportunities downtown.

Silva said Workforce Connections is still looking at providing trainings. "I give credit to the ladies who do the casework. Any trainings we can help you with, just let us know. We are sending two individuals to solar evaluation training. We want to make people more marketable."

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director, said her office is working on the applications for the next round of $17 million of Colonias Infrastructure funding. "The last round, of which Grant County received $2 million, should be in the hands of the recipients Monday. We have two applications in for Grant County and Hurley for Community Block Development Grants, which we expect to get." She said Western New Mexico University had become a member of the COG, and she is a member of the university Dean Search Committee, so "I can make sure they realize the importance of being involved in the community."

Clark, as a Prospector, said the group had a successful day in Santa Fe, talking about the priorities, which are to retain hold harmless on gross receipts taxes; fund capital and operation requests for WNMU, fund capital outlay for Grant County schools; technology upgrade requests by the Association of Students of WNMU; improvements of regional water systems; sustainability of rural Volunteer Fire Departments by offering stipends to the volunteers; and requesting increases in reimbursement rates to sustain rural non-profit providers to those with disabilities.

Lucero said the Prospectors have created an excellent book as a guide to legislators, and other groups plan to use the book as a model.

"I think every year, we get better," Clark said.

Lucero said she understands from Sen. Howie Morales and Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez that they will require for capital outlay requests use of the Prospectors process, with the forum and the book.

"We are finalizing the process, and wanting to increase our membership," Clark said.

"As a Realtor, I want to say that Cissy was recognized as the 2012 Realtor of the year," Clark said. She also presented year-end numbers for 2012 real estate sales: "There were 370 listings sold with a total dollar volume of $50,052,160. Of these 286 were residential properties with an average sales price of $140,280 and 190 days on the market. Seventy were land sales with an average sales price of $85,061 and 284 DOM. 10 were commercial sales with an average sales price of $195,780 and 222 DOM. Two were multi-family sales with an average sale price of $435,000 and 117 DOM. We had 2 Farm/Ranch sales, the first since 2008, with an average sales price of $680,000 with 359 DOM. Total sales were up by 77 closings and total sales prices were down by 9.2 percent."

Although membership in the Realtor's organization is down to 60, she expects some to return to the business. "Each is a self-employed businessperson."

She encouraged people to shop local for loans. Clark also pointed out appraisal regulations have tripled for appraisers.

Murphy reported on the Grant County Community Health Council. "Tiffany Knauf, our Health Council coordinator, presented in Santa Fe supporting the re-funding of health councils across the state." She explained they had lost their total state funding several years ago. Because the local health council had reserves of funding from grants, it has remained active in the community, and now is supported by Gila Regional Medical Center.

George Julian Dworin, new director of the Silver City Arts and Cultural District, said the organization has great opportunities. "I think arts and culture are a great asset for the very vibrant community. We ask you to support events and buy from vendors. Invite your friends and family to come to town to events and spend money. We need to look to the regional community, including Phoenix, Tucson and El Paso to bring in tourism dollars. We also have an opportunity with our local airline flying to Phoenix, and the potential of increasing the tourism market from there."

McAndrew reported on the Southwest Energy and Green Jobs Taskforce and said, when the plan is complete, she will ask to be on the agenda to present it.

Gutierrez reported on the Arizona Water Settlements Act planning process. The Interstate Stream Commission is reviewing the proposals, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is doing appraisals of the proposals, determining whether the projects are feasible, can be engineered, and can meet estimates of costs. "Things are moving, but maybe not as fast as hoped. I made a presentation to the governor on whether there should be a New Mexico Unit diversion structure. None of the local projects have been eliminated. Even with the engineering, we're seeing good projects, especially with the reuse and regional water projects."

When asked about the project proposed by Sen. John Arthur Smith for a pipeline from the Gila River to Las Cruces, Gutierrez said he believed the intent was for New Mexico to use the water in the area. He also refuted the rumor that "horrendous amounts of water will be taken from the Gila. Because of stipulations in the Act, 'horrendous amounts of water' are not available."

McAndrew said she is working with Morales and Martinez to make sure the telescope donated to City of Rocks by Gene Simon is not moved to Las Cruces.

Gutierrez said he recently bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and has attended events for Harley riders. " Silver City needs to attract these riders. Harley-Davidson is still flourishing, and these riders spend lots of money."

Leetmae said the Chicano Music Festival will have motorcycle and car shows as part of the event.

McAndrew said another local initiative is to build trails across the state, such as the Clay Trail and a Food Trail. "How about a Motorcycle Trail?"

The next Roundtable meeting is slated for March 15 at 8:30 a.m., likely at the Grant County Administration Center.

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