Pizza chain among other businesses lured to Portales

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

What do you get when you combine dough, tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni?

Economic development.

Well, pizza, too.

Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza is one of about 20 new businesses the Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation has helped locate in Portales since Greg Fisher took over as director in October 2007. Papa Murphy’s co-owner Adrian White hopes to open in August.

While Fisher said each business’s case is different, there are similarities in his procedures.

“What we basically do is work with every client based on their specific needs,” he said.

Portales has good business opportunity and location, and because of Eastern New Mexico University, its workforce is better educated than in many communities, Fisher continued.

Sometimes, company representatives contact Fisher, but in the case of Papa Murphy’s, Fisher approached the owners of the Clovis store about a year ago. He said he knew they had a good product and Portales had a market for it.

White said an expansion to Portales was included in his 2005 business plan, but the idea had fallen by the wayside. When Fisher approached with the opportunity, it wasn’t hard to pick it up again, White said.

“There’s room in the market for somebody else, there is,” White said. “We have our own market niche.”

Portales is undergoing changes, and the presence of national pizza chains shows there’s a market for the food, he said.

Also, White said the city has a good pool of employees. He expects to hire 15-18 people in the beginning.

During the expansion process, Fisher provided a tour of Portales, including available locations, housing, utilities and what businesses were coming. He said Papa Murphy’s owners originally planned to build their own store, but the national credit crunch stopped them.

Then, the space local businessman Max Merrick owns next to Landall’s Box Office on Avenue C opened.

White initially applied for an economic development assistance grant. However, he said he didn’t qualify because Papa Murphy’s was considered a retail store instead of a restaurant, and there was some opposition.

Still, White and his family members, who co-own the business, had intended to come to Portales with or without the grant. So they kept going, he said.

Fisher said he is usually working with about 30 businesses of varying sizes on the possibility of them moving to Portales. One of his big roles is helping find and analyze possible sites.

“We like to find a company that is a good match for our workforce and our business mix,” he said.

Fisher targets companies in renewable energy, agribusiness, retail, entertainment and professional services, which range from engineers to office supply stores.

“We’ve done some very proactive advertising this year, and companies around the country are starting to take notice of Roosevelt County, especially wind energy and agribusiness,” he said.