Business leader gives rural NM vote

Raymond Mondragon, manager of area economic development for ENMR-Plateau, was recently appointed to the state’s Economic Development Corp. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Jean Verlich: CNJ News Editor

Raymond Mondragon, manager of area economic development at ENMR-Plateau, has been named by Gov. Bill Richardson to the board of the Economic Development Corp. known as the New Mexico Partnership.

A former Clovis police chief and city manager, Mondragon represents Region 4 —Curry, Roosevelt, Quay, Harding and Union counties — for business. There are two members from each of seven state regions on the board, with one representative for business and the second representing economic development for that region.

Mondragon talked to the Clovis News Journal about his new role and the New Mexico Partnership.

Q: What qualifications do you bring to represent eastern New Mexico for business?

A: As Clovis city manager, I worked with all local, state and federal governments. I was vice president of the New Mexico City Management Association. That’s where a lot of my contacts come in handy.
I have really come to like the challenges of economic development, especially for rural New Mexico. When I was appointed to this position by the governor, I was appointed to serve for business District 4 — Roosevelt, Curry, Quay, Harding and Union counties. Except for Roosevelt, as the area manager for economic development for ENMR-Plateau, those are the counties I work anyway. It fit in perfectly with what I do already with the company.

Q: What are your personal objectives as board member?

A: Rural economic development is so important. In my service on the board, I don’t want the Partnership just to concentrate on the Rio Grande Corridor — Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Belen. I want to make sure rural New Mexico gets their share of job creation.

I have a taste for economic development. I have a concern for our rural New Mexico communities, especially those declining in school enrollment and population. I’m going to serve District 4 in the business sector on the board to make sure that we get our fair share of jobs in rural New Mexico. But I’m also going to represent the New Mexico Partnership board to make sure they continue doing what they’re doing because they are doing a good job based on what they have to work with. We want to make sure we give them adequate funding to continue. I want to be a resource. I am going to be a board member who is going to be active … and to have a voice on the board.

Q: How will you be active on the board?

A: Being an active board member is making sure that the Partnership staff goes to the communities in rural New Mexico to meet with some of the mayors and elected officials and let them know what the priorities are, to introduce the marketing plan. Also it’s being involved in the legislative process, i.e., coming up with incentives for companies to come in or being a voice to make sure that they get adequate funding from the legislature or the governor.

Q: Chase Gentry, executive director for the Clovis Industrial Development Corp., also serves on the Partnership board representing economic development for Region 4. How will you work together?

A: Even though I am an economic developer, I am on the business side on the board. I also am with a private company. The governor said since I am in business, he would appoint me to the business side.
Chase and I will share the same goals and objectives through the marketing plan, making sure we get our fair share of jobs. We are going to talk a lot. We see each other just about every day. My job will be more about marketing and public relations to businesses to let them know and to educate them that the partnership is here and working hard trying to make sure that rural New Mexico is being taken care of and not just the Rio Grande Corridor.

Q: What are the Partnership objectives?

A: The number-one priority is to fill the vacant position of the outgoing president and CEO Jim Colson, who has resigned. Clark Krause, former vice president of business development, is the new interim president.
Second is to continue funding for the partnership so that we can continue creating jobs in New Mexico.

Q: Is the Partnership reactive or proactive in attracting businesses to New Mexico?

A: We go both ways. We not only wait until a request comes in, but we go out and also try to market and reinvest in some of those communities. For example, Chase Gentry and CIDC go to trade shows. We want to go to trade shows and develop contacts and bring people into eastern New Mexico.

The Partnership also gets what is called a PRO — a potential recruitment report. If a company is interested, they send it out to the economic developers in New Mexico and ask if they are interested in a meat packing plant, a dairy, milk producing, whatever, a cheese plant. Those economic developers in the communities respond to it. If it is favorable, the Partnership contacts the CEOs or person who’s contacted them, and they say they’re interested and ask about doing a site visit.
What we do here in Clovis that is unique, and they tell us this is the best one, is that we have an economic development response team with members from the college and various professionals who represent various areas. ENMR-Plateau is involved. We put on presentations with the city, county, CIDC and Chamber of Commerce in hopes that we would impress them with what we have to offer.

Q: What does eastern New Mexico offer businesses that other areas don’t?

A: Not only eastern New Mexico, but really the state: We offer great incentives in Eastern New Mexico. Clovis and other communities have gone through a process assisted by the Economic Development Department to become a Certified Economic Community. You have to adopt an economic development tax ordinance so you can start working toward guarantees of incentives for companies.

The advantages in eastern New Mexico are several. One, we are rural. Two, we have a lot of space to offer, a lot of land as a reasonable price. Three, the people of this community really are accepting when people come into Clovis. The businesses, industry, citizens, people relocating … we offer pretty darn good affordable housing, and that’s real important. We are creating jobs by bringing dairies, the cheese plant, the ethanol plant and various other projects.

Q: Can you ever rest on your laurels?

A: With the announcement of the new mission for Cannon and the ethanol plant, for example, now is not the time to cut budgets in order to support economic development. We feel that now is the time to reinvest in those communities so that they can provide the proper infrastructure for businesses to locate in their communities.

One of the most important things is for communities to continue developing their infrastructure, i.e., wastewater, sewer lines, water lines, streets.

The other component of the Partnership on the economic development side is business retention.

— Compiled by CNJ News Editor Jean Verlich