Some of the top goals to develop the economy in five southeastern counties of the state have been outlined in a strategy approved by the Southeastern New Mexico Economic Development District and Council of Governments.
The group’s board of directors approved a draft of the 2017-2022 comprehensive economic development strategy at its Friday meeting in Roswell. Only minor corrections and changes are expected following the plan’s adoption, according to staff.
The economic development group’s consultant, Hubert Quintana, said the plan for Lincoln, Otero, Lea, Eddy and Chaves counties had been developed after many public meetings and discussions with business and government leaders.
He said the region is known for its resiliency but wants to position itself for more sustainable and continual growth in future years.
“We feel that (resiliency) is something that this district is very good at,” Quintana said. “We have gone through booms and busts.”
According to the comprehensive plan, the dependency of the region on oil and gas, potash, agriculture and military funding has caused cycles of recessions and growth periods, but those established industries also provide the foundations for the region to continue to diversify into other business enterprises, including alternative energy, international trade and aerospace and aviation industries. Senior care businesses are also seen as an opportunity area.
The economic development group identified five top goals to spend its staff resources on during the next five years to help the region develop economically. These include strengthening, expanding and diversifying the existing economic base; improving the economic climate and economic development capabilities; enhancing educational and workforce training opportunities; improving infrastructure such as public facilities, industrial parks, regional transportation, affordable housing and communication networks; and promoting an “experience industry” that markets the region as a whole for its tourism and recreation activities.
According to data included in the report, the five counties had a total population of 278,304 as of April 2015 with an average poverty rate that year of 17.56 percent of the population. As is true of the state as a whole, the greatest number of job opportunities in the five-county region in February 2017 was for people with high school degrees or less education. Unemployment as of December 2016 ranged from 8.7 percent in Lea County to 5.7 percent in Otero County, with the average for the region being 6.68 percent. That compared to a statewide unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.