By Mike Linn
PNT Managing Editor
The Portales City Council will vote tonight whether to amend two ordinances that would increase the membership of a committee overseeing municipal funding for new businesses and would allow owners of small businesses — not just major export companies — to receive city funding.
But allowing small, start-up businesses to be eligible for financial support has at least one local economic recruiter scratching his head.
“We’ve never had economic development emphasis on start-up companies — they’re pretty high risk,” said Kim Huffman, chairman of the Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation and recruiter of new businesses to the community. “The state of New Mexico (economic development office) does not place an emphasis on start-ups.”
Huffman added that he doesn’t foresee the city financially supporting any retail businesses because retail only allows for money to circulate within the community and money won’t come in from other communities.
The ideal business to fund would be like Sunland Inc., a business that produces in Portales but sells its peanuts all over the world, Huffman said.
The city has about $110,000 in a fund the city can dole out to businesses seeking to locate in Portales, according to city attorney Stephen Doerr. The fund grows from 1/8 percent gross receipts tax set aside for economic development. The tax was approved by registered voters.
The application for city funds states the business must be able to pay the city back within 10 years through gross receipts taxes and an influx in jobs for Portales residents.
If passed, a seven-member review committee recommends to the city council which businesses should get funding, which safeguards the council from violating the state’s anti-donation clause, according to city clerk and interim co-city manager Joan Martinez-Terry.
The review committee would include: three members of the executive committee of the Portales Development Corporation, one member of the Portales Mainstreet Board of Directors (an addition to the current committee), one member of the city council, the city manager or her designee and a lay person appointed by mayor Orlando Ortega.
A public hearing to discuss the amendments will happen before the council can vote on the amendments. Tonight’s city council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.