Business feature: Local commercial development slowing down

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Pete Wilt, Clovis’ director of building safety, said new commercial development is down, though the city has seen some expansion of existing local businesses such as the addition of a new location for the Soapy Springs car wash on west 21st Street.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Whether it’s the soured economy or tightened lending, there is a slowdown in local commercial development.

Inquiries and fact finders for business people interested in the community are down and local experts are just waiting to see when it will turn around.

“I wish I had a crystal ball,” said Ernie Kos, executive director for the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce. “That’s the million-dollar question.”

Usually, business people looking at the community as a possible site location stop in to the chamber for information on demographics and aspects about the community.

But lately, Kos said her office has seen a decrease in people checking out the community and inquiring about business opportunities.

“I just think it’s the overall economy and people just waiting and seeing and waiting for more people to move in with the military,” she said.

With construction season around the corner, Pete Wilt, director of building safety, said permits for commercial construction are down this year in spite of hopes of an increase.

“We have not seen an increase in commercial development,” Wilt said. “I was hoping that we would see it but we haven’t. We’re not getting what we want, like the nicer restaurants and newer hotels.”

Wilt said there are hopes and plans and “a lot of stuff on the drawing boards,” but people are having a hard time getting financing for new projects.

Current projects in the city include expansion of existing businesses and service, such as a new McDonald’s restaurant on North Prince Street and a new Sonic Drive-in location planned for Mabry Drive, near Schepps Boulevard, Wilt said.

It’s better in Clovis than in other areas, such as Phoenix, said Nels Anderson, owner of Anderson Construction.

A commercial builder based in Clovis, Anderson said his 44-year-old company works in five states — and larger areas seem to have been hit harder by the economic conditions when it comes to new development.

But this year Clovis’ market is responding too and feeling the pinch, he said, albeit a little delayed.

And he expects the next few months will continue to be below average.

“It’s pretty soft compared to what we’re used to,” he said. “Our volume is down … (Because of) economic conditions, people are just holding off or can’t get their hands on the money. Compared to a year ago, we’re not getting the inquiries.”

Anderson said he has seven contracts right now, including expansion at two peanut plants in Portales, a small yogurt plant southeast of Clovis, a truck maintenance shop and some storage buildings, so, “I’m not complaining a whole lot.”

Kos said on the flip side of things, commercial inquiries have been replaced with investors and developers looking into home building opportunities to meet housing needs at Cannon.