City officials laud benefits of microplex

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

Portales and Clovis city leaders have been lauding the benefits of designating the two cities as a microplex, benefits that would encourage economic and population growth for the area.

Officials for both cities signed a renewal agreement on Thursday to continue the microplex designation for four more years.

A look at what the designation means to the area:

Chain reaction
Clovis Mayor David Lansford credits the designation of the area as a microplex as one of the reasons for bringing in businesses such as Chili’s and Applebee’s restaurants and Lowe’s Home Center.

“We certainly think it (microplex designation) does (work),” Joe Thomas, Clovis city manager, said. “They said it was a corporate decision, but they never considered the area before the designation.”

City officials and local dairy owners for both counties also worked together to bring in the Southwest Cheese plant that employs more than 200 people.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee said the designation helps in receiving funding to renovate the downtown area, which will in turn help the existing businesses. Lee used as an example the money received for the Yam theater and the possibility of funding for renovating the downtown square.

Piquing interest
“We’ve had contacts and people interested in bringing their businesses to Clovis,” Thomas said, partially because of the designation. “They’ve made visits.”

Thomas wouldn’t say specifically which companies, citing confidentiality and not wanting their competitors to know.

“You have to be careful what you’re recruiting,” Lee said. “You have to bring businesses that fit. We’re working on the vacant lots in the downtown areas and trying to get businesses in.”

Strength in numbers
According to the 2002 U.S. Census, the Albuquerque metropolitan area had a population of 753,988; Santa Fe metropolitan area, 147,635 in 2000 and Las Cruces, 174,682 in 2000. The Clovis/Portales microplex population was 64,690, according to the 2000 census.

“I think we are the fourth power in the state of New Mexico,” Lansford said. “We’ve got more of their (people interested in moving to New Mexico) attention as a microplex. The micropolitan area is eligible for funding opportunities (from state or federal governments).

On a mission
“We talk frequently and as often as possible over lunch,” Thomas said. “We bounce ideas back and forth, which is what we did for the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) situation.”

In June, for the BRAC hearing, officials said about 5,000 flags were displayed along the route from the BRAC commissioners’ hotel to the school, along with thousands of “Operation: Keep Cannon” signs, which have been displayed around the community. Portales residents rode buses to Clovis to line up on the sidewalks where BRAC commissioners could see them.

Louder voice
Lansford and Ortega are trying to acquire federal funding for the $358 million Ute Water project. The original water authority plan called for the federal government to fund 80 percent of costs, and New Mexico and Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority 10 percent each.

“The microplex status creates a stronger voice at the state and federal level,” Ortega said. “They see us in a different light.”

Ortega said it shows to the U.S. Congress members that the communities are working together to lock up water for the area’s future.

Under that proposal, Clovis would have had to pay about $11.6 million and Portales $4.6 million based on a 2003 cost analysis.