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New Mexico State University has selected a multi-county region in the state to participate in the “CREATE BRIDGES” program to build up rural economies.

CREATE BRIDGES stands for Celebrating REtail, Accommodations, Tourism and Entertainment by Building Rural Innovation and Developing Growth Economies.

The program was recently launched in New Mexico, Illinois and North Carolina with the help of a $2 million grant from Walmart to the Southern Rural Development Center, housed at Mississippi State University.

NMSU Cooperative Extension Service has received a $300,000 multi-year grant to implement the Northeast New Mexico CREATE BRIDGES project in Union, Colfax, Harding, Mora, San Miguel, Quay and De Baca counties.

As part of this initiative, NMSU Extension economists and county agents will collaborate with the Northeast Economic Development Organization-NM and regional economic development and education leaders to pilot a process to help rural communities build their capacity for strengthening the retail, tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors, which provide jobs and business opportunities that frequently boost rural economies and have been notably impacted by COVID-19.

CREATE BRIDGES provides opportunities to customize implementation according to community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The CREATE BRIDGES program provides NEEDO-NM with a unique opportunity to achieve the business and workforce development goals established for the region during NMSU Extension’s Stronger Economies Together program,” said Michael Patrick, NMSU Extension economic development specialist.

NEEDO-NM was chosen to implement the project for its clear desire to grow its tourism and retail industries as well as its demonstrated commitment to CREATE BRIDGES businesses.

“NEEDO-NM region has worked in collaboration as a non-profit EDO for the past eight years and sees this as a real opportunity to continue that collaboration and pursue the goals established in its strategic plan,” said Pat Vanderpool, NEEDO-NM president and Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation executive director.

“Generally, the retail sector in rural communities often fills local needs and serves as an entry point for new workers,” Patrick said. “However, entry level workers do not always understand the career paths available that would allow them to move up or train for supervisory and management roles.”

NEEDO-NM will work with economic development and small business development professionals to facilitate a business retention and expansion program and a CREATE Academy for regional leaders.

It also will coordinate with the Eastern Plains Council of Governments, North Central New Mexico Economic Development District, Eastern Area Workforce Development Board and Northern Area Local Workforce Development Board to identify opportunities for workforce training focused on incumbent and new workers.

The program also will look at workforce solutions to retain workers and promote from within.

CREATE BRIDGES builds upon Stronger Economies Together, a collaborative effort across 32 states led by the Southern Rural Development Center that helps rural counties work together to develop and implement an economic development plan for their multicounty region.

Northeast New Mexico CREATE BRIDGES is being developed by a team of experts including Patrick and the Southern Rural Development Center’s Rachel Welborn and Grace Langford.

For more information, contact Patrick at 575-202-4253.

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