Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad began the expansion of its railroad yard in Clovis this year, promising to add at least 80 jobs to the economy. CNJ FILE PHOTO
By Jack King
By all accounts, 2003 was a banner year for business in Clovis. Officials said commerce across the board grew at a record pace and the city garnered statewide — even nationwide — attention for its attraction of the Southwest Cheese plant.
City Clerk Don Clifton said gross receipts taxes generated by city businesses grew 13.2 percent in 2003, compared to increases of 3.6 percent in 2002 and 2.9 percent in 2001.
Clifton said business in all categories grew, but new retail business and new construction topped the list.
“The increase has been steady all year. It wasn’t concentrated in any particular month,” he said.
Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, and Ernie Kos, executive director of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, said gross receipts taxes from retail sales went from $24 million in 2002 to $26.5 million in 2003. Gross receipts taxes from construction went from $4.3 million in 2002 to $5.9 million in 2003.
“The more we grow our retail base, the more we increase the concept of ourselves as a hub area,” Gentry said.
“Not only are more people coming here to shop, but fewer people are leaving town to buy the things they want and need,” Kos said.
Among the new retail businesses that arrived in Clovis this year are Lowes, Hastings, Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby and a new, enlarged The Master’s Christian bookstore.
In addition, several restaurants have come to Clovis or have added branches this year. Among them: The Rib Crib, Guad To Go, a branch of Guadalajara restaurant, and a new location for Something Different on Prince Street, Gentry and Kos said.
The city clerk’s office reported about 280 new businesses started in Clovis in 2003.
“Retail development is certainly among our top five developments this year,” Kos said.
Gentry and Kos said other developments in that top five are:
• The expansion of Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s railroad yard in Clovis.
• The decision by Glanbia Cheese to build a $200 million plant in Curry County.
• The remodeling of Clovis’ country club, now the Chaparral Country Club.
• The attainment of a “microplex” designation for the combined Clovis and Portales areas, which officials say helps recruit potential business.
Those looking to grow Clovis had a lot to cheer about.
“Look at the salaries BNSF pays. An engineer’s salary is $70,000. That’s three times the salary of a retail job. That’s only one of the ways the expansion is bringing new money into our economy,” Gentry said.
Although Southwest Cheese has not yet broken ground on its planned plant near the Curry County-Roosevelt County line, Kos called it “a promise of success” for the area.
Noting a Dec. 27 article on MSNBC News’ national Web site titled “NM says no to taxes, yes to cheese,” Kos said, “The plant has given our community a lot of momentum, something to look forward to.
“One trucking company, Indian River Transport, has already opened an office here, intending to haul milk, and others have said they plan to open them here. And lots of contractors and sub-contractors from all over the country are calling our office about opening offices here,” she said.
The renovation of the country club, begun in June by Norman and Dana Kelly, has economic importance because it adds to Clovis’ attractiveness for companies considering a relocation, Kos said.
“One one of their first community tours here, Glanbia executives were very impressed. They said it (the country club) had a big effect on their decision to move here instead of other locations,” she said.
Awarded in February, the microplex designation allows Clovis and Portales to list themselves as a single 50,000-member community for economic development purposes. Gentry and Kos said the expanded customer base helps the two cities compete with other areas for retail companies.
Also important this year were expansions at Clovis Community College and Plains Regional Medical Center, they said.
The reasons for the city’s boom this year are complex, Gentry said.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together piece by piece. It’s taken years of work by Ernie and others, doing things like supporting our dairies in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which gave a base supply of milk with which to attract the cheese plant. Clovis’ economic development tax (approved by voters in 2000) gives the district an advantage over its competition and I think the city’s adoption of the International building codes gives our permitting department the ability to meet the needs of industry and contractors on a timely basis,” he said.
“We’ve also had the advantage of a strong, progressive team in our leadership positions,” Kos said.