Community tries to build on 'success dilemma'
Published: Saturday, October 4th, 2003
As Mayor David Lansford told the audience in a noon talk at Friday’s economic development forum at Clovis Community College, the secret of successful economic development is organization and planning. Approximately 75 community leaders met Friday to discuss issues, brainstorm and plan for the future. “Economic development has a different meaning for each of us, but we can all agree it should mean jobs for Clovis residents and should help make Clovis economically viable,” said CCC President Beverlee McClure. Mark Lautman, chairman of the New Mexico Economic Development Commission and longtime economic development professional in New Mexico, told the Clovis area professionals they are suffering from a “success dilemma.” Having succeeded in attracting a cheese plant to the county, a success that is being talked about statewide, they are in the position of competitive swimmers who have made it to the Olympics, but now must reset their goals to keep winning, he said. “You didn’t get where you are by serendipity or luck,” Lautman said. “In economic development, behind the scenes there’s a lot of work.” Economic development means “vertically integrating” your economy, building on — and maximizing — what you have, he said. It also means mobilizing many facets of your community, he said. He used Austin, Texas, residents as examples. He said they began preparing to attract microprocessor plants in the 1970s by having their community college add computer courses, endowing computer engineering programs at the University of Texas and having the county government use discretionary funds to install necessary infrastructure. Successful economic development means adding “economic base jobs,” the kind that bring money into the community, faster than the population grows, he said. “In 10-to-20 years, how do you want your economic base to look? What do you want it to be made of?” Lautman asked. In a panel discussion that followed, John Dunker, project developer for the Southwest Cheese plant, noted that Clovis attracted the plant because of actions it took 10 years ago, when it began to make the area attractive to the dairy industry. Clovis Industrial Development Corporation President Ken Carruthers echoed the point when he noted that patience serves economic developers well. McClure said Clovis has a good school system and that CCC partners with business to produce educated workers. But, she added, the average reading level in Curry County’s adult population is between the third and sixth grade. She said CCC’s student population is predominantly female, meaning that large numbers of men in the area are not completing their educations. State Sen. Clint Harden said government is responsible for fostering a favorable environment for economic development, but often politicizes the process. “Government can’t be effective without a serious discussion of decreased spending,” he said. Real estate appraiser and developer Armand Smith warned that Clovis should not equate economic development with the expansion of retail stores and should keep an eye on long-term changes in agriculture. For example, over the next few years this region will produce less and less grain, he said. Zala Smith, president of the Clovis Downtown Revitalization Program, said downtown has a good building stock and other amenities, but suffers from many owners without the money or inclination to repair their property.
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