By Tony Parra
PNT Staff Writer
Members of the Portales community gathered in the Zia room of the Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University for the Portales/Roosevelt County Economic Development Forum to discuss where the community is heading in 10 years.
Community members wrote on pieces of notepad paper the areas the Roosevelt County and Portales community members need to address at the end of the forum. The members were broken up into different groups, each consisting of city and county officials.
“It was very directive,” Scott Arnold, Roosevelt County Coop Telephone manager, said. “They (participants) hit the nail on the head. I think our future is up to us. There were a lot of excellent ideas. People from the community would agree with the ideas.”
The groups came up with a vision statement and goals for each area of the community. Some of the areas that were addressed were ENMU growth, transportation, tourism, housing and health care and economic-based development.
Eastern president Steven Gamble talked about how ENMU had an enrollment of about 3,900 students in the fall of 1994 but that the university had been on an eight-year decline. The last two years ENMU has bucked the trend and grown to around 3,700.
“Four things struck me as the most important to the community,” said Noreen Scott, the director of the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation. “Transportation, ENMU, agriculture business and the quality of life. They wanted to expand and focus on making this a great place to live.”
There were 61 people who attended the forum which was sponsored by ENMU, Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce and Community Development Corporation, Wells Fargo and the Portales News-Tribune.
“I think the turnout was fabulous,” Scott said. “It shows that this community wants to grow. It shows how many people want to progress.”
Scott was the moderator of the event and she has been director for the RREDC for 13 years. The RREDC has created 4,500 jobs by bringing in such companies as Gateway, Victoria’s Secret and Nations Bank Credit Card center, according to www.tel.occe.ou.edu.
Scott talked about how many economic development plans are shelved and how no one follows through with them. She insisted that if Portales is serious about growth, it must follow through on an action plan.
“Some people in the community are concerned with growth because they don’t want to lose that small-town feeling,” Arnold said. “That’s a big issue with Portales. We don’t want to lose that.”
During the forum, seven panelists with backgrounds ranging from senator to business owner discussed the status of their organizations and companies and their reasons for coming to Portales.
Robert Encinas, owner of Robert’s TV and Appliance in Portales, talked about how support from the Portales community encouraged him to expand his business to a larger space, with a new store scheduled to open on Oct. 15. John Dunker, CEO of Select Milk and project developer of the new area cheese plant scheduled to open in 2005, talked about how the climate, water and community were major reasons for wanting to open the plant near the Curry/Roosevelt County line.
“New Mexico is the sixth largest dairy state in the United States,” Dunker said. “It is the fastest growing state in milk production.”
Dunker talked about how the company will invest $180 million on the project which is expected to provide 205 jobs to the area.
The economic development forum representatives will meet again at noon on Nov. 13 in the Zia Room to see if they can take their ideas a step further.