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County takes action to spur economic development

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Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr. says he has three major objections to an economic development resolution passed by the county Thursday. The resolution passed 4-1. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Chaves County commissioners have taken a couple of actions intended to create jobs and business growth in the area.

They passed a resolution Thursday asking for the state to take action to spur economic growth and diversity in New Mexico and the county, and they renewed their agreement with the Roswell Chamber of Commerce.

The resolution, 19-025, was forcefully opposed by Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr., who cast the sole dissenting vote.

“Who wrote this dribble?” he asked. “I know it was no one in this building because it is terrible.”

None of the commissioners answered, and County Manager Stanton Riggs, who is listed as the person responsible for placing the item on the agenda, was out of town Thursday.

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Ezzell said he opposed the resolution for three reasons. First, he said he thought it wrongly criticized the Public Regulation Commission for the fact that Facebook was assessed millions for a transmission line to its new Los Lunas facilities. The resolution said that the decision, which Facebook was not expecting, would have a “chilling” effect on businesses looking to expand or relocate in the state. (Public Service of New Mexico assessed the charge, and the PRC initially declined to review the decision. The commission has now tabled the matter.) Ezzell said he thought that the decision was the only reasonable one because otherwise taxpayers or PNM rate-payers would be required to pay for it.

He also said the resolution is asking the New Mexico Legislature to pass laws for items not under the control of legislators. His third objection was to the call for legislation to make the state less dependent on government jobs and the oil and gas industry.

“I don’t want legislation trying to make the state less dependent on the oil and gas industry,” he said. “They are trying to do that through regulation.”

Ezzell is a rancher and an oil and gas lawyer.

The resolution indicated that evidence of the need for an economic development strategy included the state’s high unemployment rate, high poverty rate, low wages and “brain drain” as people leave to other states for opportunities. It then asked for eight legislative actions.

These included a study by a private economic development firm to determine why New Mexico “can’t compete with its neighbors,” the funding of economic development officers throughout the state, the creation of “good paying jobs” and legislation to “make New Mexico competitive to encourage the growth and expansion of businesses.”

Although Commissioner Robert Corn moved for approval and Commissioner Jeff Bilberry seconded, neither made any comments about the resolution.

Commission Chair Will Cavin said, “Boy, it would be nice if we had right-to-work in this state if we wanted to stay competitive.”

The county was one of many in the state to pass right-to-work ordinances in 2018 and 2019 to bar forced participation in unions by private employers as a requirement of employment. But the Legislature passed a law this year that gives authority on the issue to the state alone.

In other action, the commissioners voted unanimously to renew the county’s agreement with the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, which is contracted to provide a number of actions to promote relocations, jobs, tourism and businesses in the city.

The agreement is for one year starting in July and provides the organization with $57,500. The group also receives money from the city of Roswell.

The county’s agreement with the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. is expected to be considered after the group hires a new president. The former president resigned in May and a search is underway.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.