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Gila EDA Roundtable, Part 3, rest of the reports and discussion on future of economic development

This article concludes the participating organization group reports at the Gila EDA Roundtable on Friday, as well as a discussion on the future of economic development in the county.

Cissy McAndrew reported on behalf of Mimbres Region Arts Council and said the Las Cruces Symphony would be in town Oct. 26, and the folk and indie series would begin soon. Pickamania! would move to Labor Day weekend next year.

Western New Mexico University President Joseph Shepard protested the date, because the university has been planning for a long time to have the Chicano Music Festival that same weekend, because of the labor connection.

Jon Saari, county manager, said: "We need to do a better job of planning so things aren't on the same weekends."

Arlene Schadel, county economic development coordinator, said a calendar on the Tourism web page should be the clearinghouse.

"We also chose Labor Day, so as not to conflict with Pickamania!, which has been later in September," Shepard said.  

Tony Trujillo, Gila EDA member said the forum for sharing information was "right here," at the Roundtable.

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director, thanked Schadel for her contributions. "We are extending our boundaries," she said. "The COG received a $90,000 award to create a state economic development plan. We will have forums around the state. I wanted it based here, because I wanted rural communities to be involved and featured."

She will present capital outlay workshops on Nov. 6, in preparation for the Prospectors Legislative Forum. The COG is also doing an application from Western for $2 million for Phase I of a vocational-technical school. By Nov. 1, a feasibility plan should be in place. "All the local governments have supported a vo-tech school."

Lucero also said the COG is working with Grant County on a brownfields application for $350,000 for an environmental assessment of Fort Bayard.

"We are also working on an art place grant to develop an art incubator with WNMU," Lucero said.  "The Border Trade Alliance has announced the law is changing from 25 miles north of the border to 55 miles, which will include everywhere south of Interstate 10. People will come through our ports of entry, where they will have a 15-minute wait, instead of a 3-5 hour wait in El Paso. We need to have bi-lingual individuals in shops."

The Colonias Infrastructure Fund applications are due in March. She said the Juvenile Justice Committee is asking for additional dollars for parents for youths.

Mary Stoecker, representing the four county-sustainability group, said a year ago the group had piles of information around green jobs and sustainability and planned to hire someone to put the information together into a plan.

"I became the de facto writer," Stoecker said. "I gave out a drafty draft over the summer, but have had no input back. Hopefully there will be a four-county group, who will use integrated information from the Grant County plan." She said, because the group was formed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, she is waiting to hear from his staff on the status of the group, considering his upcoming retirement from the U.S. Senate

McAndrew also reported for the Silver City Arts and Culture District, which she said is promoting Savor Silver City, promoting residents to eat in local restaurants. "We have more diversity of food in a small area downtown than anywhere else."

Bruce Ashburn of the Small Business Development Center said 12 veterans visited campus and he counseled them when he hosted his veterans' outreach program. Seventy-eight people participated in an IRS workshop. "We do a lot of business counseling over the Internet and phone with our community outreach." He announced new owners of the Lake Roberts Motel. Little Caesar's is coming to town. He also said Kathie Gilbert would contact many of those present at the meeting on the leadership program.

Montoya said the Hurley Meat Market had 1,800 people come from Mexico for the chili.

He said there continues to be concern in the community about economic development. "There is a concern that the COG has taken over and may be in a conflict of interest, with too much to do. The community has suddenly become aware and is wondering why the (Grant County Economic Development) Coalition (for Progress) has disbanded. There are rumors and confusion. With Arlene leaving the county, is there enough work force to do economic development? The county is still working with the Texas outfit. What is the rift among the municipalities and the county? There should be a meeting to clarify everything."

Garcia said the Gila EDA plans a meeting with the governmental entities and the COG to determine how to move forward. "We will still be collaborating and we're not going away. There is nothing stopping us from changing direction, but we're not going to fail. We have to team together and have to strategize and get a plan."

Montoya said it seemed things had splintered. "I would hope when things get settled, you have a meeting to explain it."

Skip Thacker, Gila EDA member, said when the coalition formed, it brought in the Gila EDA. "It seems we are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

Grant County Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said he didn't know what happened with the coalition, but "some felt it was broken. The collaboration with the municipalities, I don't think is broken in all areas, but there is no appetite to redo a joint-powers agreement. Jon and I and the Silver City mayor and manager and the university have collaborated."

Thacker said he heard very clearly that there is a disconnect with the surrounding communities.

"On a monthly basis, we meet with the county and Silver City," he said. "We talk about the swimming pool, youth football and baseball and using other facilities. We are trying to get together on the Fort Bayard issue, and going to Santa Clara to talk about it. Perhaps the coalition will not be as formalized."

Kasten said the group is not really fractured, as the county is putting in a bid for the New Mexico Association of Counties June 2014 week-long conference. Las Vegas hosted it last year and reaped $2 million in gross receipts. "We do not have the required number of hotel rooms, so we will use the new dorm rooms at Western. About 700 people come for the week.

McAndrew asked for the dates. Saari said it would be around June 15-19, but might be in 2015 instead.

"As soon as we know, we will buy blocks of rooms a year in advance," Kasten said.

Clark said as long as it does not conflict with the rodeo, when hotels are full.

The next Roundtable meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Friday, Nov. 16, likely at the Grant County Administration Center.

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