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Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, Part 11

Editor's Note: This is the Part 11 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.

Representing the SRAM Tour of the Gila were race director, Jack Brennan, and co-director, Michelle Geels.

"Each year, we have three main goals," Brennan said. "No. 1 is to put on the best quality race. No. 2 is to bring money into Grant County, contributing to its economic foundation, and No. 3 is to use the Tour of the Gila as a promotional tool about tourism in Silver City, Grant County and New Mexico, and the quality of life."

He said last year the Men's Pro Race became international with its inclusion on the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI) America Tour calendar. "We are one of eight out of the 2000 races in the U.S. on the calendar."

"In 2013, the Men's Pro Race will again be on the UCI America Tour calendar with seven others," Brennan said. "The Tour of the Gila is considered the fourth most important race in the country. The others are in California, Utah and Colorado. We need $350,000 to put the Women's Pro Race as part of the UCI calendar."

He said, just as last year's race was, the Men's Pro will be invitational. "Last year, we had 20 teams, with 15 from the U.S. It was the first intercontinental race for the Chinese team. The Women's Pro last year was one of the strongest teams ever, with Kristin Armstrong, who defended her China Olympics win, by winning at the London Olympics. She wrote us a letter, in which she said the Tour of the Gila is the toughest stage race in the U.S.

"On our second goal to bring money to Grant County," Brennan said, "we never had a handle on it, but Steve Chavez at Western New Mexico University crunched the numbers, which showed a direct economic development impact of $561,531. For every dollar we put into the race, three came back."

The third goal of using the Tour of the Gila to advance the potential of tourism and quality of life is an ongoing goal. "We got a lot of coverage from national and international websites and magazines. We need to improve the professionalism look of the Tour of the Gila. We are asking the state of New Mexico for funds, and we ask agencies to be the conduit for sponsorships statewide."

Hamilton asked how the Tour of the Gila is raising funds this year.

"Through local funding, lodgers' tax and SRAM sponsorship," Brennan replied.

"What about the Tourism Department?" Hamilton asked.

"We got $1,000 from the Sports Authority last year, but we don't get anything from Tourism," Brennan said. "We would love to work with them."

Martinez said every year a new Blue Book comes out at the state level, and the most recent edition does not have the Tour of the Gila in it.

"We need recognition for what we do in southwest New Mexico," Geels said.

"If this event were in Santa Fe," Brennan alleged, "the state would be all over it. We feel neglected down here."

Morales said five years ago the question was whether the race would continue. "Now it seems to have taken off." He said the Tourism Department is going away from sponsorships. The department Secretary will be here next week. We will sit with her and you. The department wants to go for 'connected communities.' With $500,000, 8.9 jobs were supported."

"We will do an appropriation bill for you," Morales continued. "Let's get it done. Get the bill from 2008 and use the language and put in a request."

The next article will cover the Restorative Justice Community Center of Southwest New Mexico.

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