by Charlie McKee
The guest speaker at this month's Gila Economic Development Alliance Roundtable session on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, was Lupe Maldonado of slStart, who provides contract services to New Mexico Works. New Mexico Works is focused on supporting families in making a transition from dependence upon benefits from New Mexico's Income Support Division to finding and keeping jobs in the workplace. Maldonado explained that she has recently undertaken a new role in addition to her load of casework with the families in the program. She is now reaching out to Grant County businesses on an individual basis to work with them in creative ways to find job opportunities for New Mexico Works parents.
Maldonado stressed how critical it is to find employment for the parents who are participating in the program, in that they are now mandated to work and are limited in the length of time (i.e. 60 months) they can receive benefits while they are supporting children under 18 years of age. She emphasized that she is committed to working with the business community to make the work program successful and personally provides any follow up activity necessary on individuals placed in jobs with local businesses. Maldonado is now devoting one day per week to meet with business owners to develop partnerships that can result in win-win situations of employment for these job candidates.
Both Cissy McAndrew of the Green Chamber of Commerce and Joe Ramirez of Mi Ranchito Foods reported to the Roundtable that they had had success in hiring New Mexico Works candidates, primarily because of the exceptional management provided by Maldonado and her co-workers. They encouraged other businesses to take advantage of the services provided by the program.
Following the featured presentation, the Roundtable members gave their reports.
Cissy McAndrew, Executive Director of the Southwest Chapter of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce reported that the Chamber, in partnership with the New Mexico Recycling Coalition, recognized five Silver City businesses for their recycling efforts. The Small Business of the Year Award went to Alotta Gelato. The other four businesses receiving recognition as Top Recyclers were: Habitat for Humanity Gila Region ReSTore; Energy Ideal; Insurance First; and Tre Rosat Café. McAndrew also announced the development of a new local map for the Visitor Center, which is more comprehensive than the existing 10-year-old version. In addition, the new Visitors' Guide is almost ready to go to print on Dec. 1. She reported to the group that representatives of the State Tourism Commission will be visiting Silver City on Dec. 7 and will attend the Tamal y Mas Fiesta on Dec. 8. Lastly, McAndrew announced that there will be an Economic Tourism Forum at the Silco Theater on Dec. 12 and encouraged all the Roundtable members to attend.
Eileen Sullivan of the Silver City Public Library announced that the renovations of the library are on track for completion by Dec. 7. She noted that the library has been closed to the public for only two weeks during the construction period. Sullivan reported that the library's computers are back up and running and that there will be a grand re-opening scheduled sometime in January.
Kim Clark of the Silver City Regional Association of Realtors also represented Prospectors. She informed the group that Prospectors had started mailing packets as of Nov. 1 to non-profits and other participants in the Prospectors' Legislative Forum, which is scheduled for Nov. 30 at the WNMU Global Resource Center. Each organization will have eight minutes for their presentation, and seven minutes will be allowed each presenter to answer any questions from Senator Howie Morales and Representatives Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez and Dianne Hamilton. Mary Alice Murphy will make a transcript of the proceedings to be taken to Santa Fe for reference by legislators. The Prospectors' meeting at the Roundhouse will be in late January 2013. Clark also reported on behalf of the Association of Realtors that they are busy!
Brett Kasten reported that the Grant County Commission authorized the first $2 million bond issue for the Gila Regional Medical Center addition and renovation. Additional bond issues will be spread over the next year to fund the $40 million project.
Representing Mary Alice Murphy of the Ft. Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition, this reporter informed the group that the organization has submitted its packet to the Prospectors for presentation at the Prospectors' Legislative Forum on Nov. 30.
Sammy Silva of Workforce Connection reported that the organization has been partnering with many state and local agencies to create a network that makes as many individuals employable as possible. He also announced that they would be conducting OSHA training for local businesses on Nov. 28.
Julie Morales of Western New Mexico University informed the group that the report proposing a technical training program has been completed for Senator Morales. She also reported that WNMU would be receiving $4 million from Bond C New Mexico Higher Education funds that were approved in the recent election. Lastly, Morales stated that the annual WNMU MainStreet Downtown Bash will be held on January 11, 2013, and that the University will be closed Thanksgiving week to give students and staff a holiday break.
Bruce Ashburn of the Small Business Development Center explained to the group that they have partnered with the Wellness Coalition to help Individual Deposit Account Savers develop their business plans. He reported that the Wellness Coalition has been successful in filling 54 of its 60 allocated slots for the program. Ashburn also praised the Leadership Program being offered by Dr. Kathie Gilbert of WNMU and urged the group to have any candidates for leadership training sign up for the program by Dec. 12, 2012. He stated that it is an outstanding opportunity for business and government alike to train potential leaders and noted that Grant County is the only county in the four-county area of Catron, Hidalgo, Luna and Grant that has not sent anyone to the training.
Kendra Milligan of the Grant County Community Health Council reported that the Community Assessments have been completed, and the results will be presented at the Prospectors' Forum. She informed the group that the data gathered from the assessments has been entered into a database and that it can now be analyzed by various category selections and other criteria. Milligan also announced that Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities would be publishing a new brochure entitled Safe Places to Play that targets families in low-income housing areas.
Blake Farley of the Mimbres Region Arts Council announced the following events:
• Nov. 16, 2012 – Eliza Gilkyson Concert at the Buckhorn Opera House
• Dec. 15, 2012 – Black Tie Ball at the Murray Hotel
• Feb. 9, 2013 – Chocolate Fantasia, themed "Along the Milky Way"
• Mar. 6, 2013 – "Rhythm of the Dance," National Dance Company of Ireland
She also reported that the dates for "Pickamania!" have been decided: September 13, 14, and 15, 2013.
Grant County Planner Anthony Gutierrez reported that he was continuing to look at sites as potential industrial park locations. He is also investigating the possibility of starting a revolving loan fund to support the creation of small businesses in the four-county area. In addition, Gutierrez noted that he had attempted to meet with the Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition regarding the application for a $350,000 Brownfields Assessment grant, but no one from the Coalition attended the meeting, due to a miscommunication.
Nick Seibel of Silver City MainStreet announced that the theme of the 22nd annual Lighted Christmas Parade would be "100 Years of New Mexico Holidays." It will be held on Nov. 24 to encourage people to stay in town after Thanksgiving and "buy local" for the holidays. Seibel also asked for support from Roundtable members at the Dec. 11 Town Council meeting regarding the designation of Silver City as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area. He stated that it would hugely benefit Silver City with a toolbox of financing opportunities to help improve the city.
Several members of the Roundtable made a point to thank Kendra Milligan for continuing the community calendar formerly maintained and distributed by Anne McCormick.
Lastly, Jeremiah Garcia arrived at the meeting in time to announce that he will be the guest speaker at the next Roundtable meeting, and he then adjourned the meeting.