Albuquerque Journal

By Mike Hartranft / Rio Rancho Observer
PUBLISHED: Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 12:37 am

Jami Grindatto has been selected as CEO and president of the newly formed Sandoval Economic Alliance, permanently assuming the duties he’s performed for the organization on an interim basis over the past several months.

Joe Sierra, chairman of the SEA board of directors, made the announcement at Thursday’s breakfast meeting of the Rio Rancho Roundtable at Club Rio Rancho. The roundtable is affiliated with the commercial real estate development association NAIOP New Mexico.

Grindatto, former Intel regional director of corporate affairs, was selected following a national search, Sierra said. He said there were 26 applicants from Oregon to Maine.

The board’s goal, he said, was to hire someone who could help establish a sound, long-lasting foundation for the SEA.
“The board will change, the presidency may change, certainly the leadership at the county and city level is going to change. We wanted to make sure the organization that we established was able to survive any of those changes at any of those levels,” Sierra said. “Jami brings a good management skill to lay the foundation to carry on the focus and the mission of the board.”

The not-for-profit SEA was formed earlier this year with a mission to attract new businesses and jobs to Sandoval County, as well as to retain and expand companies already here. It has a goal of adding 18,000 jobs, including 10,000 economic base jobs, over the next decade.

Sandoval County and the City of Rio Rancho have committed $200,000 each to the organization, with additional funding expected to come from the private sector. The SEA, in effect, is the successor to the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation, which closed operations June 30.

Grindatto, who left Intel in May, said he was “tickled pink” by his selection, a process he described as “pretty rigorous.”
“I think one of the clinchers was just the fact I was helping them set up the first 90 days, so I had an advantage by being able to demonstrate what I’m able to do,” he said.

Grindatto presented roundtable participants an overview of the work the SEA has done to now, as well as the work ahead, including forging partnerships with Albuquerque Economic Development and the Mid-Region Council of Governments, and working with UNM West students on a social media campaign to promote the area to the country.

“I will tell you, New Mexico is not necessarily the best state at promoting itself,” Grindatto told the group. “We kind of have a nasty habit of putting ourselves down. I’m like, ‘Why?’”

Grindatto discussed the possibility of hiring salespeople in key markets across the U.S. to establish relationships with businesses and attempt to interest them in moving to this area. He also showed a map inventorying urban areas of Sandoval County available for development and made a pitch for accelerating completion of the loop road, Paseo del Volcan, which would “open up the whole West Side.” He likened the potential of the Paseo del Volcan corridor to what happened with the development of Price Road in Chandler, Ariz., and subsequent development that occurred there.

Grindatto is well-known in the Rio Rancho business community, being a past chairman of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corp., and involved in many community activities. He recently was appointed chairman of the state’s Workforce Development Committee.

“I’m not an economic development professional, as of yet I guess,” he said. “But I just think we’ll be able to bring a fresh approach and look at it (economic development) a little bit differently – maybe treating it more like an organizational versus an individual approach,” he told the Observer in a later interview. “Bringing all these alliances and partnerships together is something I like to do.”

Sierra said Grindatto’s salary has not been decided, and that it and his benefits package have to be approved by the board.

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