By Leota Harriman
The Estancia Valley Economic Development Association, or EVEDA, has been making the rounds of town councils and county commissions, giving its twice-yearly update.
This year, $10,000 in state funding dried up, and EVEDA closed that gap by asking for a bit more from its government support base, with Moriarty, Torrance County and Estancia each chipping in extra on their contract renewals to make up the difference.
Torrance County gave an additional $5,000 for a total of $20,000 this year; the two towns each gave an additional $2,500, with Moriarty’s total at $10,000.
EVEDA is a certified economic development association, important because communities are required by state law to have a certified organization for certain funding. The Local Economic Development Act prohibits towns and counties from paying anyone except a certified economic development association for economic development.
The regional organization’s board is comprised of an elected official from each of its member communities, along with what executive director Myra Pancrazio called “the private money,” representatives from businesses around the area. All give funding support, with public dollars amounting to slightly more than half of EVEDA’s total funding, according to a report from The Idea Group, which analyzed EVEDA’s impact on the economy of the Estancia Valley.
According to that report, in the 8-year period from 2004 to 2012, EVEDA brought or helped to bring 519 jobs, paying salaries in 2012 of $15 million. Of those jobs, The Idea Group said that EVEDA directly recruited 204 jobs that likely wouldn’t have come to the area otherwise.
In her report to Moriarty and Torrance County earlier, Pancrazio gave a quick update on projects underway.
Google is still the big news for EVEDA and the economic development of the area, with the big unknown whether the tech giant will remain in Moriarty past the research phase on the Titan Aerospace solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly referred to as a drone.
“The UAV will never be assembled here,” Pancrazio said. “But some of the parts could be manufactured here.”
What those high-paid millenial workers at Google want, Pancrazio said, is retail shops and mixed-use development, like master-planned communities that combine residential with retail and open space. “Quality of life,” she said to the Moriarty council, adding, “Homes, homes, homes, homes.”
Because what Google does or doesn’t do will impact larger economic development initiatives, Pancrazio said EVEDA is recruiting retail companies, something it has not done much so far, as it focuses on “economic base” recruiting of companies.
Another factor there is a push to create an inland port of entry in Albuquerque, meaning that a manufacturer could put a product on a truck in Moriarty, for example, then drive to Albuquerque, where it would be moved through various “modes” of transportation like rail and shipping containers. If that happens, the Estancia Valley would become a desirable location for manufacturing because the time needed to get goods to market would be cut in half, Pancrazio said.
Pancrazio said she has had conversations with land developers who want to work in municipalities that own their own water and sewer systems, which would be an advantage for Moriarty, Estancia and Mountainair.
Edgewood has a sewer system and has been working to increase its capacity, but there is no municipal water system in town. Residents are served by private water companies, domestic wells, and water associations.
EVEDA is also creating an exploratory committee to look at whether Torrance County could bring in a hospital. Pancrazio said that soon both First Choice Medical Center in Edgewood and McLeod Medical, which has offices in Moriarty, Edgewood and Cedar Crest, will offer urgent care services. She said both are supportive of the idea of a county hospital.
Asked how Torrance County could afford to pay for a hospital, Pancrazio said one idea is to look at PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) dollars that come in to counties that have a large area of federal lands. The dollars replace what might have been paid in taxes if those federal lands were in private hands.
Those PILT funds will expand greatly with the Iberdrola wind farm project, which is still “alive and kicking very hard,” she said. Iberdrola recently entered a 25-year contract agreement with Tri-State Generation and Transmission for purchase of wind-generated electricity.
According to that press release, the wind farm is expected to be completed in 2017, when it will produce 76 megawatts of energy, all of which will be purchased by Tri-State.
If some of those PILT dollars were identified “specifically for longterm project—because that money’s longterm—how do you fund it? That might be a way,” she said, adding that the idea has been under consideration by the EVEDA board, and is one of the things the exploratory committee will look at.
Pancrazio said that the Shops on 66 has “three prospective tenants,” and that Cordova Construction is looking at other construction projects for the area as well.
She also told the city council that a $5 million expansion project and “a couple of hotels,” along with a large solar farm, are being considered.
Councilor Steve Anaya said that there were six counties in the state with more than 40 percent increase in housing sales: “Torrance County was one of them,” he said. “It’s all based on jobs.” Anaya is Moriarty’s representative on the EVEDA board and will head up the exploratory committee on a hospital.
The organization works, Pancrazio said, because elected officials on the board are committed to economic development of the region as a whole, and because those politicians “check their hat at the door.”
She said while the organization is active at the state level, “we don’t jump on anybody’s cause.”