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Gila EDA Roundtable hears community reports

During the community reports section of the Gila Economic Development Alliance Roundtable Friday, Dec. 7, the first community organization representative to give a report was the newly hired Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce executive director, Sherry Logan.

"I've been on the job two days," Logan said. "I'm adjusting. I'm trying to get a feel for the communities and help grow the organization."

Gila EDA President Jeremiah Garcia welcomed Logan and told her she has challenges.

Cissy McAndrew, Southwest Green Chamber of Commerce executive director, said she looks forward to working with Logan.



"We have the Tamal Fiesta tomorrow," McAndrew said. "People are asking me why I'm so calm. The event was taken over by the Hispanic community, and they have really stepped up to the plate."

She also announced the Tourism Commission meeting that afternoon at the Silver City Museum Annex. She also told the participants that Silver City Arts and Cultural District director, Julie Minicucci, had decided to move back to California, so a new director would soon be named.

"We will also hold an economic development and tourism forum on Dec. 12, at the Silco Theater from 5:30-7:30 p.m.," McAndrew said.

Eileen Sullivan, Silver City Public Library director, said the renovations at the library are "nearly done. The large meeting room is available again." A group had knitted and donated 29 pairs of mittens, which were handed out during story time. Also Bill Dinmire would hold a book signing Saturday morning, after which residents could attend the Tamale Fiesta. Wednesday mornings, story telling is held each week. "We are increasing our data capacity and will hold computer training. I think it's the real link to the work force issues. We are increasing programs to support literacy, and are starting to work on a technology program, which will allow integrated interactive programs."

Nick Seibel, Silver City MainStreet Project manager, said he hoped the chamber would be involved in the overall conversation. He announced the AmBank First Friday and a holiday sing-off at Gough Park. That evening at the Silco would be a showing of "It's a Wonderful Life."

He said MainStreet is an economic developer, "although I realize downtown is not a retail center. We really believe we are the arts, entertainment and cultural center. We're staking out turf to keep first-run movies in town."

Kim Clark, Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS®, Inc. executive and government affairs director, said the Prospectors Forum held the previous week featured 28 presentations. "The legislators were very appreciative. We will set our priorities on Monday and create a brochure. We advocate in Santa Fe for the priorities. Prospectors' Day in Santa Fe will be Jan. 30."

With her Association of REALTORS® hat on, Clark said she did statistics at the end of Novembers, and the area had 62 more properties close this year so far than last year, including 41 more residential closings, but the average price is going down. The closing prices are 79 percent of the asking price. "I think interest rates will start going back up."

Sammy Silva of Workforce Connections said he has been attending every meeting he can, so he can learn the problems in the community. "The work force is lacking. We're trying to set up programs with the high schools and the university." He announced a class in Albuquerque Feb. 21-22 for residential and commercial solar appraisers, with tuition paid for.

Western New Mexico University's Julie Morales, executive assistant to President Joseph Shepard, said Shepard had recently accepted a position with the Rural Economic Development Council under the New Mexico Economic Development Department. "It opens the doors for others in economic development."

Bruce Ashburn of the Small Business Development Center said: "I am so happy to sit in a room with people who want to accept and implement change." He announced three more Individual Development Accounts. "And we've been doing business plans right and left."

Tiffany Knauf, Grant County Community Health Council coordinator, said she is wrapping up the profile for the recently completed Community Assessment Survey. "There is much in the survey for people wanting to start businesses, especially in seniors areas."  The health council is applying for grants, including one for $120,000 a year for substance abuse issues. "The profile will look different this time, and we will do fact sheets for key groups in the community." She also said the health council is now managing Anne McCormick's list of calendar events, as McCormick will soon move to Albuquerque.

Maureen Craig represented the Mimbres Region Arts Council and announced the Black Tie Ball at the Murray Hotel on Dec. 15. "We only have a very few tickets left."  Feb. 9 will be Chocolate Fantasia. "MRAC programs are economic drivers. People move here after attending an event here. Support MRAC. We do a lot on a limited budget."

Traci Burnsed, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments transportation director, said the COG has completed the scope of work for the three-county Certified Community Initiative. "Each government will have a representative for economic development. We assisted with a county brownfields grant application for Fort Bayard, and we're working on the vocational technical school. We have a link on the website for Business USA."

On transportation, she said a public information meeting would be held Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m., at the Grant County Administration Center, concerning the plans to take down and replace the bridge just beyond the intersection of New Mexico 90 and Broadway on Hudson Street. Options for the detour route would be discussed.

McAndrew reported on the Southwest Energy and Green Jobs Task Force, which "is excited to get our plan off the ground."

Lee Gruber represented the Silver City Arts and Cultural District. She said her showroom at Syzygy Tileworks is growing and things are looking up. "We have an ad for a new director. Silver City has set the bar for creative ads. A new poster, Savor Silver City, features local chefs. We have already had inquiries to fill the director position. We're looking forward to working with Sherry. Our district's goal is national and international markets."

Jackie Blurton of the Tourism Committee said the local tourism committees have been involved for years. "We would like to interface with this group and continue what we've done well. We need help with things, like roadside beautification. Access from Lordsburg can be a problem. We need to work with the Department of Transportation on better signage on how to get to Silver City from there. It would be nice to see Fort Bayard turning into a real attraction."

Gordon West gave the "first ever Santa Clara economic development report." He said Gila Wood Products has completed three more years of "thriving and tying into mine restoration." He has three Zerosion projects planned to prevent erosion with a product he invented. Restoration Technology has a grant application in for another product—Chipcrete. Centerline Timber has pending contracts for truss work in local residences. The pavilion at Viola Stone Park was created with products from Centerline Timber. The village of Santa Clara is updating its comprehensive plan to include development at Fort Bayard, development along the highway-180 corridor and revitalization of the downtown business district.

"I've been working with Mayor (Richard) Bauch on a proposal to the Freeport Community Investment Fund to upgrade downtown façades," West said.

Earl Montoya, Silver City resident, said water affects every business and the issue should be important for everyone.

The next meeting will be set to fit around the legislative session.

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