Updated photo of construction on the cheese plant in November of this year.
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Property values in Clovis are on the rise, a surge in the residential home market has begun, gross receipts taxes made big gains, new businesses and restaurants moved into the area and one of the largest cheese plants in America is being built south of town.
“It’s a boom!”
That’s how Ernie Kos of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber describes Clovis’ recent economic growth, which ranked as the top business story of the year as determined by CNJ staff.
Construction began on the $190 million cheese plant in February, the plant should be open by October, officials say. In that time, the plant will need roughly 400 construction workers to finish the project, a press release from the company shows.
The company estimates the facility will produce 250 million pounds of cheese per year and process over 2.4 billion pounds of milk. Once fully operational, the facility would employ 220 staff and generate sales of $350 million per year, according to the Glanbia Foods Web site.
Big gains in gross receipts taxes show strong economic growth across the area. The 7.6 percent increase in the city’s gross receipts taxes for this year showed significant economic activity, bringing the annual total to $17.5 million. This is a record year for gross receipts in Clovis, but area economic officials say the growth must take certain factors into consideration.
For instance, the new capital outlay tax instituted over the summer constituted about $115,000 per month since September. If the total capital outlay tax is taken out for the year, the actual growth since last year comes to about $1.2 million.
However, that number is still $4.2 million above the 2000 total. In four years gross receipts have grown 33 percent.
Several new stores, restaurants and special service organizations moved in this year, such as Hibbett Sports, Hot Topic, Chili’s, IHOP and Clovis Open MRI, among others.
Local land developer Bill Giese said area residents have more confidence in the economy than in years past, which is likely contributing to the economic boom.
He knows of a couple new hotels going in on his properties as well as a large live-in health care facility that he says “is going to be the biggest thing to hit this town in a long time.”
“This town will never do anything but get better,” he said.
He said new business ventures have added the impetus to the economic growth, and out of state developers and investors are paying more attention to the area. Kos said a proposed city events center could increase tourism to this area by attracting conferences and conventions.
Other big business news in 2004:
• New residential housing more than doubled, meaning aggressive development has sprung up to meet the needs of a tight residential housing market.
In all, the number of new housing permits granted this year came to about 215 by Dec.10, roughly double the permits from 2003. The total value of the new homes is more than $32 million, city officials said.
The number of homes between $150,000 and $200,000 increased by 22.5 percent since 2003, according to city officials.
The value of land and housing increased in response to an increased demand, which was spurred by new businesses and increases in per capita income.
The housing boom paralleled the commercial real estate boom, led by developers like Giese, who is promising major commercial development on his properties in the next year.
• Hollywood movie producers selected Clovis to film a large part of the movie “Believe in Me,” the story of an Oklahoma girls basketball team’s rise to glory under the compelling leadership of a young coach.
The project budget was more than $10 million, some of which flowed into the Clovis economy through hotels, materials suppliers and contractors.
The crew came to Clovis in late September and left in late October to finish filming in Albuquerque. Thousands of area residents volunteered their talents, time and efforts to see the project through. Even Mayor David Lansford earned a small role as an assistant coach on an opposing girl’s basketball team.
• Solid rains early in the cotton-growing season had area growers on track for an above-average year, but a cool summer and rains late in the season reduced cotton quality and set back the harvest date.
Local farmers were anxious to get their crops out of the field late in the season, but a cold fall pushed back the harvest for several weeks.
Warmer and dryer conditions in early December allowed local farmers to harvest most of cotton by Christmas, farmers said, even though ginning will likely continue through the New Year.
“Yields were down a little bit because of the cold weather,” area farmer Mark Williams said. “This kind of weather makes for a very good corn but average cotton year.”
He said it is still a record cotton year for Texas, but crops were hurt in the northern counties by the weather. Still, this year is considerably stronger than last year, Williams said, when hail wiped-out many acres.