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Regional economic plan drafted, awaiting review

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Major economic development goals for the region have been identified after months of planning, and now a draft of the development plan is under review by a federal agency to determine if regional groups will qualify for a $5,000 grant to implement ideas.

“I know that a few of our economic development corporations that are involved are following this (plan). They have listed their key contacts and steps in the document, so I think they are already using it as a guide,” said Mary Ann Burr, planning program manager for the Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District, one of two regional development councils involved in the planning effort. “It should not be a document that sits on a shelf. It is actively being worked.”

The Strengthening Economies Together (SET) planning process involves dozens of government and business entities and individuals from a five-county area. The counties represented by the Southeastern economic development group are Chaves, Eddy and Lea. The counties represented by the Eastern Plains Council of Governments are Curry and Roosevelt.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service facilitates SET planning, building on previous economic plans for the area.

The USDA National Review Committee is evaluating the regional SET plan now. If the group recommends it as a high-quality plan, a $5,000 grant will be awarded to help groups implement the goals or otherwise aid the plan’s intentions.

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Beginning in March 2017, numerous meetings occurred throughout the counties to review economic and demographic data and solicit ideas for the future. As a result of those meetings, eight major goals were developed to promote business and job growth in the five economic sectors identified of importance to the area: agriculture and food production, tourism and hospitality, defense and security, transportation and energy.

The specific goals include the following:

• increasing locally produced foods by 25 percent by 2021;

• recruiting training institutions or workforce development programs to introduce a hospitality and ethics program by fall 2019;

• identifying six viable funding sources for affordable housing by December 2019 (which falls into the defense and security category);

• increasing economic opportunity by 30 percent through greater use of the Roswell International Air Center by 2028;

• and increasing the number of licensed commercial drivers by 10 percent by 2020, the number of energy companies with district offices in the area by 2023, and the number of midstream oil and gas processing facilities by 50 percent by 2022.

The plan is available online at snmedd.com.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.