Secretary setting sights on rural areas

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Fred Mondragon, left, is briefed Wednesday morning by ENMR-Plateau Chief Executive Officer Tom Phelps about operations in this region. Mondragon spoke Wednesday to Clovis Industrial Development Corp.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Bringing business to rural cities is the goal of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, according to the department’s cabinet secretary, Fred Mondragon.

Mondragon was in Clovis Wednesday to speak a the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.’s annual membership breakfast at the Clovis Civic Center. Mondragon also toured the ENMR-Plateau headquarters and the Business Enterprise Center.

He defined rural cities as municipalities with a population of 40,000 people or less. He said there were about 40 rural municipalities in New Mexico.

Though bringing in more companies is one goal, keeping existing companies is also important, Mondragon said.

“It should be a lot easier to keep customers rather than bring in new people,” he said.

Tax credits, incentives and cuts have helped spur economic development, he said.

He said the economic development department was working to get more financial service companies to come to New Mexico.
“I’m talking about back offices, which would include human resource services and financial services,” he said, adding “more than a marketing call center, more of a back office.”

Money from the film and movie industry is also boosting economic development, Mondragon said.

“They buy a lot of things when they come here,” he said. “The principle thing is having tremendous tax credits for anyone who films in New Mexico.”

Movie producers can get back 25 percent of payroll taxes. He said the state offers no-interest loans to movie companies that will invest $50 million in the state.

About 17 movies were filmed in New Mexico in 2006, including “Wild Hogs,” starring John Travolta and “Border Girl,” starring Jennifer Lopez, and about $122 million was spent in the state, Mondragon said.

After Mondragon spoke, CIDC Executive Director Chase Gentry gave a report about the progress of the Clovis Industrial Park.
American Renewable Fuels is the latest company to commit to build its facility in the park. ARES Blue Sun Development has already begun constructing its biodiesel plant in the industrial park.

“The two biodiesel plants will be the core industries in our industrial park,” Gentry said.

Clovis was Mondragon’s fourth stop in his visit of New Mexico cities.