Cheese plant latest sign of region’s attractiveness

The region’s near-euphoric state of awe these days is the outgrowth of a heap of economic development announcements in recent months.
Our collective awe grew larger with Thursday’s announcement that a $200 million cheese plant will be built south of Clovis. The state-of-the-art plant will serve West Texas and eastern New Mexico dairies, including the 62 in Curry and Roosevelt counties. By July 2005 it will have fueled our economy with 700 construction jobs, 205 permanent plant jobs averaging $29,000 a year and could bring about 2,000 more spinoff jobs.
So, why did Select Milk, Dairy Farmers of America and the Irish multinational Glanbia corporation strike this agreement? Obvious points first: You build a cheese plant where the milk is, near a rail center and good highways to cut truck and rail costs, and receive millions of incentive dollars because of good work by people like Chase Gentry of Clovis Industrial Development Corp., Fabian Trujillo of New Mexico’s Economic Development Department and Gov. Bill Richardson.
But there are other vital factors: the area’s momentum, its people and their can-do spirit. Glanbia, DFA and Select Milk chose a region that’s creating, not waiting for, its future. Many new companies and existing ones have chosen Clovis and Portales to expand. When successes pile up, others are willing to risk their money and time.
We applaud Mr. Richardson and his staff for keeping a campaign pledge to bring jobs, not just to the big cities of New Mexico, but also to the rural ones. He joined our community leaders and business people in helping make BNSF’s expansion project a reality last spring. Now he has joined Sen. Pete Domenici to see that the cheese plant wouldn’t be located anywhere but in Curry County.
Let’s look at other examples of momentum in just the last three years:
— Millions of dollars were pumped into our economies because of work at Cannon Air Force Base to rebuild the runways, replace the aging airfield tower and fire station and modernize barracks.
— Burlington Northern Santa Fe is spending $15 million to expand the Clovis rail yard and add more than 80 new jobs averaging $80,000 a year. Spinoff jobs and companies, like Project Rail that refurbishes rail cars, are added benefits.
— Lowe’s, Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree are national firms opening in Clovis and creating 200 to 300 jobs. Chili’s restaurant has said it will open this year, and Home Depot, Hastings and IHOP are reportedly looking at Clovis.
— Abengoa Bioenergy Corp., formerly High Plains Ethanol in Portales, has a bright future aided by a federal energy bill promoting alternative fuels to help meet U.S. clean air standards. Abengoa’s Portales production could rise from 15 million gallons to 30 billion or 40 billion gallons by 2012, resulting in more jobs.
— Several local businessmen bought the old Furr’s store in Clovis. It is the new home for Master’s Books. National Travel and the new Java Loft will follow.
— Snyder’s Cleaners combined two stores into its new North Prince Street building. Many other firms either have or will build on Prince or improving storefronts.
— Rib Crib came to Clovis recently. Something Different of Portales opened a second restaurant in Clovis last year, and has Something Different Deli on North Prince. Guadalajara restaurant soon will have Guad To Go Deli on North Prince.
— Bank of Clovis opened downtown a few years ago and will soon open another branch on North Prince. And Clovis National Bank is a relatively new venture of Portales National Bank.
— Roosevelt General Hospital is going strong in just two years. Plains Regional Medical Center is well into a multi-year, multimillion-dollar expansion project.
— Dillard’s opened in North Plains Mall in mid-2000 and continues to report strong sales. Several other tenant stores operate there now, too.
— Wind turbine farms being built near House and other places will establish us as a regional energy center. Ute Pipeline, a dream for decades, is an idea whose time is coming in the next eight years to provide another regional water source.
— In Clovis, Colonial Park County Club has new owners and a new name, Chaparral Country Club. It is in the midst of a facelift that will restore the golf course and facility to its former perch as a place to relax in style and grace.
— The YAM Theater in Portales is being restored on Town Square, where several businesses are either locating or their owners are improving their storefronts. The Roosevelt Chamber of Commerce and Community Development Corp. will soon fix up another building on Town Square as their new home.
— Main Street Clovis businesses have grown in numbers, bringing shoppers back downtown. The Clovis Downtown Revitalization Program is working on plans to continue the recreation of this once vital center of commerce.
— Millions of dollars for public works projects continue to improve community buildings, roads, schools and airports in Clovis and Portales. Most significantly, officials for the two cities recently buried an old hatchet. They formed the Clovis-Portales Microplex to make this a more attractive area for future retail and industrial growth. Portales also signed a contract to use the Clovis dump.
Not a bad list, is it? This is what momentum looks like. It came because of hard work, dedicated people, families who believe here is the place to be for the long haul.
Imagine what it will look like this time next year.