Economic activity spiking in region

Sharna Johnson

Portales and Clovis are experiencing economic energy despite a rough economy, according to economic development directors in the communities.

Greg Fisher, Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation executive director, spoke of expansion in a variety of areas.

Recently the Abengoa bioethanol plant reopened after two years of inactivity, employing nearly 50 people, and trucking business brought about 100 jobs to the area.

Fisher said several existing food and beverage companies are also looking to expand operations, and enrollment at Eastern New Mexico University saw an increase this semester.

And while he declined to specify who, Fisher said talks are ongoing with other industries, including film industry projects.

“We’re not a one-factory town,” he said. “We’ve got lots going on.”

Fisher said the community also has more than 300 for-sale and rental homes in the planning stages to help accommodate growth in the next couple years.

As for Clovis, with renewable energy putting it on the map, new companies are evaluating the area as a potential home for future operations.

Among prospects are a methane gas digester and wood product manufacturer, said Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation.

The wood product manufacturer, who Gentry declined to identify, would employ 250-280 people, placing it on a scale of operations with Southwest Cheese.

Gentry said talks with the company are in the early stages because they are looking at several communities, although they recently visited Clovis.

Gentry also declined to identify the methane digester company, citing a need to iron out contracts and “get everything in order” before an announcement is made, which he expects in the next couple of weeks.

With the proposed operation, the company would process waste from dairies and other animal operations in the area, converting it to usable fuel.

“If it all comes together, I think it will be a win-win for everyone,” he said, explaining the company could alleviate strain on dairies trying to meet environmental regulations.

The company, which, because of the nature of its product, would seek a location relatively remote from the general populace, would have an initial investment of $20 million in new construction and would ultimately employ about 20 people, he said.

Gentry credited renewable energy projects and the planned Tres Amigas superstation for drawing industries to the area.

“It’s brought a lot of attention to us, and we’re on the radar screen,” he said. “It’s given us name recognition which I don’t think we (could) afford to buy.”

With construction set to begin in the next year, Gentry said the project has overcome its hurdles and is attracting peripheral industries such as wind farms and natural gas to the area to be near the superstation.

Overall, despite a rough economy, Gentry said Clovis’ future looks bright, with growth at Cannon Air Force Base. The base recently announced its population of 5,000 is the most it’s ever had and another 1,000 personnel are expected.

And recovery in the dairy industry as well as housing projects are helping to turn things around.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Gentry said.