By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
A networking group focused on bridging economic concerns faced in eastern New Mexico and west Texas is making its first Clovis visit tonight.
The Southeast New Mexico and West Texas Leadership Group, which encompasses representatives from area communities, expects to have about 100. They meet at 5 p.m. in the Norman and Vi Petty Rock N Roll Museum.
Featured speakers include Texas State Senate President Pro Tem Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and New Mexico Economic Development cabinet secretary Fred Mondragon.
The event, like the group, is invitation only. But founder Danny Koch of Lubbock said there is a focus to avoid exclusion.
“If we can find somebody who brings something to the table, we’re going to bring them in,” said Koch, adding the club has no membership dues or elected officers and only requires members, “show up, connect and contribute.”
Member Ray Mondragon, who handles economic development and government relations for ENMR-Plateau in Clovis, said the states have lots of common ground, and the group provides a platform to be better neighbors and partners on those issues.
The group started four years ago, Koch said, when Duncan and New Mexico Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, got together to discuss water rights issues. Koch said the two had never met, but quickly realized they could get a lot more done by sitting down than with filing border-issue lawsuits.
Since then, the group has grown with current members inviting new people, ranging from education representatives to company CEOs to chamber of commerce directors.
The group meets two to three times a year, rotating cities across west Texas and eastern New Mexico.
“We want to showcase the various communities, what they’re doing economically,” Koch said. “Maybe somebody from Sweetwater, Texas, sees what they’re doing in Clovis, and they’ll say, ‘Maybe we could do it better, or add a new twist.’”
Ray Mondragon said the Clovis focus would gravitate toward the agriculture and dairy industries.
“We competed for the cheese plant with some of them,” Mondragon said. “But we also need to let our neighbors know we share workers at well. We need to keep open a dialogue as neighbors.”