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Jul

Rio Rancho Observer
By Zita Fletcher, Observer Staff Writer
PUBLISHED: July 18, 2016

Sandoval County representatives took a leading role at the New Mexico Association of Counties’ first joint economic development session in Hobbs last month.

At the NMAC 80th annual meeting on June 23, a recently formed NMAC Economic Development and Infrastructure Policy Committee gave presentations designed to educate counties about local job creation.

The committee, chaired by Sandoval County Commissioner Glenn Walters, focused on educating county managers, commissioners, treasurers, assessors, attorneys and other professionals about the key components of economic growth.

 “The whole idea of the committee is to level the playing field of economic development among the 33 counties,” Walters said. At Thursday’s commission meeting, Walters distributed documents and CDs to Sandoval County Commissioners who were not present at the summit.

District 1 Commissioner James Dominguez was the only other board member aside from Walters to attend the summit. Dominguez said he is focused on fulfilling his promise of working as a full-time commissioner. “I was impressed that we had a lot of people there from Sandoval County,” he announced at the commission meeting, noting that the economic session was geared towards ordinary staff as well as elected officials. “This includes everybody.”

“It was a resounding success,” Walters told the Observer. “It was very well-received.”

Presenting panelists included Jami Grindatto, Sandoval Economic Alliance director, and Antoinette Vigil, Sandoval County business development manager.

New Mexico has a declining population due to lack of jobs, Walters noted, and certain counties have more sophisticated legislation in place than others. Some have access to state Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funding, while other counties lack the necessary ordinances to enact LEDA.

The committee had three hours during the three-day NMAC conference in Hobbs to present a meaningful and educational program to attendees.

Walters introduced two moderated panels. Each panel consisted of six people with various types of economic expertise, such as state economic development practices and USDA rural development.

According to Walters, each session was respectively focused on examining the raw components of economic development and “putting the pieces together.”

About 150 people attended.

“I think they came away with further understanding of all the tools that are available state and federally they can use to create job growth,” Walters said.

At present, the committee is working on next steps to further educate the state’s counties about economic development infrastructure. One possibility being considered is the development of comprehensive short courses on key subjects.

“We’re looking at the educational pieces that need to be delivered and available to local elected officials,” Walters said.

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