County official: Local economy going strong

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Roosevelt County is in good economic standing in the midst of the country’s economic difficulties, according to the director of the county’s community development corporation.

Greg Fisher told the Roosevelt County Commission the county’s strong milk and peanut production are pluses because in hard economic times, people are consuming peanut butter and milk. The education Eastern New Mexico University provides also helps, he said during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

However, Fisher said the county took a hard hit when ethanol manufacturer Abengoa Bioenergy stopped operations and laid off workers. He said he spoke to the company’s management in St. Louis, who indicated they intend to remain open and retain some top employees.

Even with Abengoa layoffs, Fisher said, Roosevelt County still has only a 3 percent unemployment rate.

In addition, developers from California and Colorado are looking at building housing and restaurants in the area, he said.

“And there’s some compelling reasons why,” Fisher said.

Fisher projects around 15,000 new military personnel, military dependents and civilian contractors and construction workers will come to Cannon Air Force Base over the next six to 10 years. He said Portales can plan to get 20 percent, or 3,000, of those people.

To see this above-normal growth rate, Fisher believes homes need to be built in the county and current residents must welcome visitors and base personnel.

In addition, Fisher said wind and solar companies have expressed interest in the county. He said the solar project he is aggressively pursuing wouldn’t use a lot of water.

According to Fisher, Portales would be able to support 175 employees for the project, most with skills such as welding and using lift trucks.

As another opportunity for growth, Fisher said a food-processing automation company has agreed to move to Portales in January.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved naming the cooperative extension meeting room after late county extension agent Floyd McAlister.

• Approved a professional services agreement that makes Management Services Inc. the county’s representative in labor negotiations and issues.

• Approved a little more than $34,000 in indigent claims.