Archive for Economic Development

A Stocking No Longer Full Of Coal

by John Weckerle

It has been some time since we published an article.  There is a reason for this.  After reading an article in which a West Virginia interviewee stated that he voted for Donald Trump because he believed that his state’s coal economy had been decimated under the Obama administration, we decided to dive into some research on the coal industry, what makes it tick, and what’s making it wind down. We downloaded production statistics, read dozens of articles and government publications, created some fairly complex spreadsheets, and generated a couple of dozen graphs, looking at trends at the national, regional, and state levels, finding some things we didn’t expect and that we found very interesting.

Then, earlier this week – just after we began writing the actual article – somebody (ahem) decided to sign an executive order.  The national media pounced, and suddenly nearly all the results and findings we had generated – that the decline of the industry has been going on for decades; that it is the result of market forces such as decreased demand, ascendancy of competing products (natural gas, renewables, etc.) to a much greater extend than regulatory pressures; and that the jobs are never coming back – were suddenly all over the airwaves and the web. As recently as this morning, MSN Money reported that the entire coal industry employs fewer people nationwide than the Arby’s fast food chain.

This was a bit discouraging, and highlights the challenges faced by those of us with very small writing staffs. Nevertheless, we did gain one insight that we haven’t seen prominently discussed in the national media: even if the coal industry does rebound nationally, West Virginia’s likely won’t, nor will most of the eastern U.S. coal industry.

Our first major source was the United States Energy Adminstration’s (EIA’s) Coal Data Browser which, among other things, provided us with coal production data from 25 coal producing states spanning 15 years (2001 through 2015). We saw this as a promising range of data, because it incorporates nearly equivalent segments (in terms of years) from two Presidential administrations – eight years from the administration of George W. Bush (2001 through 2008) and seven years from Barak H. Obama’s administration (2009 through 2015). As most would expect – at least those who pop in and read our articles once in a while – we were delighted to find that we could download the data, load it into a spreadsheet, and see where the information might lead us.

To understand the market trends within the United States, it is important to know how the EIA defined (at least until recently) coal producing regions (we’ve added the 2015 coal production to give a sense of scale):

  • Middle Atlantic – Pennsylvania; 50,030,833 tons
  • East North Central – Illinois, Indiana, Ohio; 107,437,449 tons
  • West North Central – Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota; 29,139,231 tons
  • South Atlantic – Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia; 111, 469,038 tons
  • East South Central – Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee; 78,656,669 tons
  • West South Central – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas; 40,228,355 tons
  • Mountain – Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming; 477,417,852 tons
  • Pacific Contiguous – Washington; no data
  • Pacific Noncontiguous – Alaska; 1,177,390 tons

One thing that surprised us was the prominence of the Mountain region in terms of overall production. Previously, when we thought of coal, we thought of Eastern states, especially West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In fact, the Mountain region accounts for more than half the nation’s coal production, and Wyoming alone produced nearly 42% of the nation’s coal in 2016. The next largest output does come from West Virginia, which in 2015 commanded just under 11% of U.S. production.

We examined the data from a variety of angles, and fairly quickly determined that where declining coal production is concerned, all regions – and all states – are not necessarily created equal. Overall, production in 2015 nationwide was about 231 million tons less than it was in 2001.  Of this, 88 million tons of production were lost in the South Atlantic region (including West Virginia, whose production decreased by about 67 million tons), and the East South Central region was right behind, losing about 78 million tons of production (the lion’s share of which was lost by Kentucky at 72 million tons). The Mountain region was next, with production dropping by about 34 million tons, and the Middle Atlantic region, containing only Pennsylvania, saw production decrease by 24 million tons. Following were the West South Central region (decrease of 10 million tons), West North Central region (decrease of just over 1 million tons), and Pacific Noncontiguous region (decrease of about 337,000 tons). The East North Central region saw an increase of nearly 12 million tons, with Illinois’s gain of 22 million tons (a 66% gain compared to 2010) offsetting Indiana’s and Ohio’s losses.

Wait a minute…gains? If, as some people assert, Federal policy was responsible for the decline of the coal industry, one would expect that the industry would decline evenly, with perhaps a greater impact being seen in Western states where there might be more impact from banning coal mining from Federal lands. However, during the 15-year period, Wyoming’s production actually increased by 7 million tons, and its market share grew from 32.7% to 41.9%. During the same period, West Virginia slid from 14.4% to 10.7% of the market; Kentucky’s market share plunged from 11.9% to 6.8%; and Pennsylvania dropped from 6.6% to 5.6%. At the same time, Illinois’s share of the market grew from 3.0% to 6.3%; Montana picked up a little over a percent with an increase in production of 2.7 million tons; North Dakota picked up half a percent; several other states saw smaller gains in terms of market share even with production decreases; and Mississippi and Montana reaped smaller percentage gains with production increases of about 2.5 million tons each.

What gives? Why are some states faring better than others? To our eyes, it looked as if there might be an issue of variations in cost, so we decided to go hunting among the coal price data. There we found some interesting trends – while coal prices have fluctuated substantially even over the last few years, in every data set we examined, there was a substantial difference in price, and for the most part the hardest-hit states were those with the most expensive coal. In all cases, for example, the cost of West Virginia’s coal was 4 to 5 times higher than Wyoming’s and North Dakota’s, 3-4 times the cost of Montana’s, and in 2015 was nearly twice the cost of coal from Illinois.

A little more searching turned up some interesting sources of information, including a year-old USA Today article that outlines some of the factors contributing to the decline of the coal industry: lower costs in the West, the decline in exports, slowing of the Chinese economy, the decline in use for energy production (with an attendant increase in natural gas use), liabilities associated with restoration, bankruptcies, and more. An article by provides a graphic depicting reported coal-fired generator retirements from 2012 to 2016, showing a major cluster of shutdowns surrounding those states with the greatest losses in coal production and market share. That article also discusses a variety of other industry-related trends that are of interest: China’s pledge to end the growth in carbon output, India’s strategy to increase its domestic coal production, and continued expansion of competing industries, including natural gas, solar energy, and wind energy. The article also discusses investor risk and divestiture, and discloses that the losses of large mining companies (including coal and oil drillers with assets of $50 million or more) in 2015 were greater than the profits made by the industry since 2007. Health costs and issues associated with high executive compensation are also discussed, as is the Miners’ Protection Act introduced by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The mediocre news is that domestic coal production has been more or less stable over about the last year. Projections for the next year, depending on the source, run from small decreases to small increases, based on speculation that natural gas prices will experience a moderate increase. We’ll see how this plays out.

The future of the coal industry does not seem to be in doubt – it seems certain that the decline will continue, and economies in the eastern United States will be the hardest hit. The future of coal country is far less certain. On the one hand, the current administration seems focused on perpetuating the illusion that coal jobs will return someday despite the obvious reality that they will not. At the same time, the administration – and Congress –  appear bent on dismantling the programs currently benefiting those hit hardest by reversals in the coal industries, and in other industries nationwide. On the other hand, coal country, like other areas affected by shifts in the economy, is populated by hard-working people with hopes, ideas, and passions of their own, and these are the best hope for creating new enterprises and renewed growth. What should the people of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and elsewhere do? Having been on the wrong side of economic development, your editor hesitates to offer any suggestions – because in the end ideas that come from the outside of a community are perhaps of less value of those that come from within. That having been said, we’ll close with a link to a TED talk by someone who, by his own account, also started off on on the wrong side of the subject, but learned from that experience and developed a different way of helping people pursue their passions in business – Dr. Ernesto Sirolli.




Edgewood Chamber Director Resigns

by John Weckerle

Word has reached New Mexico Central that the Edgewood Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director, Brenda Murray, has resigned to accept a sales and marketing position, leaving the Chamber’s Board of Directors with the unenviable task of replacing a person who will likely be a tough act to follow.  Ms. Murray’s efforts were noteworthy enough for us to allow a glimmer of cautious optimism with respect to the Chamber, and it remains to be seen whether the Chamber’s Board will be successful in hiring a similarly capable and dedicated executive director.

Small Chamber of Commerce executive director positions can be hard to fill, or at least to fill well.  A good part of the reason for this is financial as budgets tend to be very limited.  Looking at the Chamber’s web site, we see about 110 members.  Assuming that they all pay $95 (unlikely, as a number of members listed are individuals and nonprofits, who pay less), this amounts to $10,450 in membership fees, which doesn’t go far in acquiring a capable and dedicated executive director – at least not for long.  The Town of Edgewood’s Economic Development page indicates that the Town contracts with the Chamber for economic development services; however, the most recent budget posted (which, like much of the information on the site, is out of date) appears to contain no funding for economic development and both the Chamber’s and the Town’s economic development pages appear not to have been updated for a long time.  While we are sure the Town is spending some money on economic development, the information on the two entities websites suggests that this is not a major source of revenue for the Chamber.

Your editor has been a member of three local/regional nonprofit organizations: The Edgewood Chamber of Commerce, the Estancia Basin Resource Association (EBRA), and the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association (EVEDA).  Of these, EBRA stood out in terms of meeting its goals and fundraising and your editor remains a supporter, having resigned from the Board only for reasons associated with earning a living.  At one point, your editor received training on the responsibilities of a nonprofit Board of Directors member, which have evolved over time, and we think it timely to discuss at least some of those roles and responsibilities in the hope that the information may help the Chamber and other organizations increase their probability of success.

During one of your editor’s Board adventures, the opportunity arose to take a class on Board roles and responsibilities provided by Jean Block, Inc.  The class was quite revealing, and we recommend it to Board members of nonprofits of all kinds.  Of chief interest to the current situation is the role of Board members in fundraising: in short, that is one of the chief responsibilities of Board members.  As articulated on the Bridgespan Group’s (and numerous others’) web site, “One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to secure adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission.”  That means fundraising.  However, many nonprofits, Chambers included and perhaps especially, tend to delegate this function to the executive director and/or staff, who then are forced to essentially find the money to pay themselves – leaving less time for work associated with the Chamber’s actual mission.

Of course, there is often confusion on what that mission is. Both the Edgewood and East Mountain chambers’ web sites have what amounts to mission statements, although these tend to be a bit short on language associated with implementation.  What we’ve observed at times is that chambers appear to view themselves more as community organizations than business organizations, and efforts seem to focus disproportionately on community events, placing fundraising, business advocacy, economic development, and member recruitment/retention in subordinate positions.  Many events do little to bring in revenue for the Chamber and perhaps benefit only a few businesses that may see some increased traffic as a result.  Events are good for the community, and it is appropriate for the business community to “give back” to the community at large, but when resources are scarce it makes little sense to focus strongly on community events at the expense of building/maintaining a strong Chamber.

We wish the Edgewood Chamber Board good luck in securing a new executive director – and in focusing on the fundraising activities so greatly needed to acquire and retain a competent and capable individual for the position.

If We Build It, Will They Come? And Who, Exactly, Are They?

by John Weckerle

In the 1989 film Field of Dreams (a film well liked by your editor), farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) undergoes a supernatural journey in which a voice whispering “If you build it, he will come” leads him to plow under part of his farm and build a baseball field.  Much transpires, and as time goes on the field is populated by the spirits of baseball players gone by, including Ray’s father.  Author Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones, asserts that people will come, even though they won’t know why, and pay to simply be there – and in the end, a stream of automobiles, miles long, is seen headed for the field.

“If you build it, they will come” has to some extent been a bit of a mantra among the economic development community – with the right incentives, infrastructure, amenities, etc., who could resist coming here (wherever “here” may be)?  The problem, however, is that every community/region/state, etc. has incentives and amenities to offer.  The competition is fierce, and it can be difficult to score an advantage over equally hungry community with just a bit more to offer – or an urban area that can offer much more, both to owners and employees.  And people tend to have ideas regarding what is to be built, and to whom it must be sold.  In our earlier article on economic development in the Estancia Valley, we referenced a September 4 article from local newspaper The Independent reporting on a presentation by Estancia Valley Economic Development Association Executive (EVEDA) Director Myra Pancrazio.  As stated in the article:

What those high-paid millenial workers at Google want, Pancrazio said, is retail shops and mixed-use development, like master-planned communities that combine residential with retail and open space. “Quality of life,” she said to the Moriarty council, adding, “Homes, homes, homes, homes.”

We likely join our readers in a certain sense of suspense, wondering what what strategy is forthcoming from this realization.  The article indicates that EVEDA is now considering pursuit of retail companies, something it has “not done much so far.”  We’ll note that one of the areas in which the region – for the most part, Edgewood – has succeeded is in retail, all on its own.

We digress, perhaps a bit, because our focus today is not on the “what” (we’ll get back to that another time), but the “who.” And maybe the “why.” When we first read The Independent’s article, we decided to take a look not only at what might attract entrepreneurs (and we’ll go on record that shops, good restaurants, etc. are attractive to anybody), but who those entrepreneurs might be. And as it turns out, they may not be who the regional experts plan to target.  “Millennials” (depending on the source, birth years run from the early 1980s to around 2000) definitely include their share of entrepreneurs.  However, a number of sources, including the 2015 edition of The Kauffman Index: Startup Activity, National Trends suggests that perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye of the local econovelopers.

We’ll note that the Kauffman report examines 3-year averages, which dampens down some of the volatility that is common to many economic data sets.  Examining “unfiltered” data, which includes both entrepreneurs pursuing opportunity and those going into business by necessity (lost jobs, running out of unemployment benefits, etc.) as well as data strictly involving opportunistic entrepreneurs, some intriguing information comes forward. In the unfiltered realm, substantially more men than women create startups, and from the standpoint of ethnicity (the report incorrectly expresses this as race), Latinos lead the pack in terms of starting up businesses.  Immigrants create more startups than native-born folk. With respect to age, the lowest rate of startups is actually associated with those 20 to 34 years of age, and the rest of the age populations tend to leapfrog each other over time.  And almost incredibly (unless you actually read the text of the report, of course), the least educated segment of the populations (“less than high school”) outstrips the more highly schooled populations.

Looking next at the filtered data, which excludes those who essentially start businesses for reasons other than absolute necessity, other patterns emerge.  More women than men start up enterprises by a substantial margin; people of Asian descent lead in terms of ethnicity/race; more educated people somewhat narrowly lead in terms of startups; and foreign-born and native-born folk are in a dead heat.  In terms of age, the group from age 53 to 64 outstrips all other age groups. And as the Harvard Business Review notes:

Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25. The vast majority — 75 percent — have more than six years of industry experience and half have more than 10 years when they create their startup,” says Duke University scholar Vivek Wadhwa, who studied 549 successful technology ventures. Meanwhile, data from the Kauffman Foundation indicates the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55-64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34.

We’ll refer readers to our earlier article on the departure of Google’s solar drone project so that they can take a look at some regional demographic information.  We see a certain commonality between our local demographics and some of the groups of entrepreneurs in the Kauffman report.  And lest we be uniquely branded as merchants of doom and gloom, we refer our readers to this Washington Post article on New Mexico’s economic situation, published in January 2014.   And we’d like to put forth an idea: as a place to which entrepreneurs might bring their companies, perhaps the Estancia Valley is not quite ready to receive them – but on the other hand, if one were looking for an pool of potential entrepreneurs ready to start up, based on the demographics, just exactly where else should one look?

As has been the case in many places, those dedicated to economic development here in the Estancia Valley and East Mountains should perhaps move into a listening mode.  There will always be projects in which partners from elsewhere are needed – hotels, and so on are a prime example – but the entire idea of economic development should always be to enhance the lives of and opportunities for those who live here in the first place.  We may face challenges in attracting businesses, but perhaps we can help grow them, instead.

Edgewood Will Leave The Light On For You – Finally

by John Weckerle

In a September 17, 2015 article, the Mountain View Telegraph reports that the Edgewood Town Council has taken formal action toward bringing a hotel to the Town. According to the article, the hotel will be a Comfort Inn (yes, we know our title for this article suggests a different chain) built on Marietta Court by Aspire Hotels.  The Town acted to approve an ordinance and a contract to allow the project to move forward.  As the Telegraph reports, the hotel is projected to results in 10 full-time equivalent jobs, $26,000 in gross receipts taxes, and $3,718 in property taxes.

This is great news for Edgewood; the local business community has long cried out for a hotel. As with Estancia’s wishes to bring in a hotel to house people visiting inmates at the nearby prison, these cries seemed unheard by the regional economic development community.  At one point, however, Edgewood apparently decided to pursue the concept, and the Town began working with the Edgewood Chamber of Commerce to assess the feasibility of bringing a hotel to the Town.

Edgewood is entering the hospitality arena – and given the Town’s closer proximity to Albuquerque as compared to Moriarty, shifts in the region’s economic configuration remain an item of interest.  Moriarty has long held a monopoly in the lodging arena in the region, and a solid entry into the market on Edgewood’s part could seriously erode Moriarty’s primacy in the lodging sector.  Moriarty holds certain advantages with respect to road infrastructure, especially regarding truck traffic, but if old proposals for an exit between Edgewood and Moriarty resurface, the value of that advantage could decrease.

Of course, Moriarty holds one other distinct advantage that Edgewood refuses to take away: the ability to have a cocktail with dinner ( we will note that we gave up on dinner in Moriarty several years ago, with or without cocktails, so we may be a bit behind the times in this regard).  Edgewood has only one establishment – Pizza Barn (which we recommend) – that offers beer and wine with dinner.  And of course lodgers will be unable to purchase wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages to take back to the room on Sunday, unless of course they drive to Moriarty. Regardless, the arrival of Comfort Suites in Edgewood is good news for local businesses and attractions. Perhaps this will renew Estancia’s interest in obtaining a hotel, as well.

Everyone Knows It’s Windy

by John Weckerle

In a September 4, 2015 article, The Independent’s Leota Harriman reports on a Moriarty City Council meeting at which the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association (EVEDA) provided a semi-annual report on economic development activities.

The article is replete with opportunities for our admittedly nerdy penchant for looking things up and analyzing them – so many so that they simply cannot be covered in a single article, so we suppose we’ll have to call this one the second of a series, with the first being Saturday’s article.  At a minimum, we envision examining the following issues:

  • The Iberdola El Cabo project and wind energy impacts on county economies (today’s article)
  • The concept of amenities as a means of “attracting millenials” and, as a result, technology/manufacturing businesses
  • The Local Economic Development Act, including what it says (and perhaps more importantly what it doesn’t say), and the status of the Certified Communities Initiative and other State economic development programs.

And that’s probably just a start; economic development is a complex subject.

For today, we focus on the first item in the list above.  This comes in two parts; statements on the El Cabo wind energy project contained within the article, and some interesting studies involving economic impacts on county and state economies as a result of impacts.

El Cabo, or Not El Cabo

From The Independent article, reporting on a presentation by Myra Pancrazio, Executive Director of EVEDA discussing the potential for Torrance County obtaining a hospital using Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT):

Those PILT funds will expand greatly with the Iberdrola wind farm project, which is still “alive and kicking very hard,” she said. Iberdrola recently entered a 25-year contract agreement with Tri-State Generation and Transmission for purchase of wind-generated electricity.

According to that press release, the wind farm is expected to be completed in 2017, when it will produce 76 megawatts of energy, all of which will be purchased by Tri-State.

The idea that the Iberdrola project was moving forward (acknowledging that having a power purchase agreement [PPA]) is no guarantee that a project will be completed) was certainly new information; as reported in an August 28, 2014 Albuquerque Journal article, construction on the project had stopped and there has been little heard about it since.   This would be great news for at least some part of the local human population – although potentially less so for local birds and bats – hoping for the economic benefits arising from wind projects.  We enthusiastically scoured the web, including the sites of both Iberdrola and Tri-State, both of which post their press releases, and were disappointed to find no indication of a press release announcing a PPA for the Iberdroga El Cabo project in Southern Torrance County.  The text in The Independent’s article appears to refer to a press release involving Iberdrola’s  Twin Buttes project in southeastern Colorado (previously reported by the Mountain View Telegraph).

While the press release is at least a little good news for the good folks of Bent County, Colorado and renewable energy advocates within Tri-State’s region of influence (and perhaps the aforementioned Torrance County birds and bats), we fail to understand how this development would affect PILT funds, or any other aspect of economic development, in the Estancia Valley.  And we also have to wonder how news that Iberdrola is focusing successfully on a project elsewhere, while the local project is halted, is cause for optimism here.

Of course, if we’re wrong about this, we’d invite anyone with information to that effect to click the comment icon (the little word bubble at the top right of the article) and let us know.  We’ll be glad to acknowledge the error.

Hang Your Hat on the Wind

At the outset of this discussion, we refer our readers to two sources: Economic Development Impact of 1,000 MW of Wind Energy in Texas published by the National Renewable Energy Technology Laboratory (NREL), and this summary of Ex post analysis of economic impacts from wind power development in U.S. counties. As the latter article states: “…total county personal income increased by $11,150 over the 2000 to 2008 period…  And, for every megawatt of wind energy installed in a county, one half of a job was created.”  Of particular interest are Tables 3 and 4 of the NREL report, which show that the “local” share of the project tends to represent a relatively small percentage of the total project cost.  According to the State Land Office, of the 80,000 acres envisioned for the project, 39,000 would be State land.  In terms of acreage essentially half is owned by the state- so it is unclear just how much revenue would be collected by local landowners in terms of leases for tower locations, and how that would relate to local economic benefits in terms of increased economic activity and tax revenue for Torrance County.  Unfortunately, as the NREL article notes, the inputs into the JEDI model, which projects economic impacts of wind projects, are often proprietary, so we can’t easily apply it here.  While we agree that the project would be of benefit to economic development at the county and state level (assuming that it restarts), we caution that the benefits of wind energy projects may not be what is sometimes envisioned.

We’d like to let our readers know that we will probably be taking a few days off to attend to other things, but should be back next week.

A Titanic Sinking: Google Drones Fly Away

by John Weckerle

In April 2014, your editor and a number of other people received an e-mail message containing very good news: Titan Aerospace, a solar-powered drone startup operating at the Moriarty Municipal Airport – had been purchased by Google, and the project was to stay in Moriarty. As reported in the Mountain View Telegraph less than sixteen months later, Google abruptly announced its decision to abandon Moriarty and move the operation to California, reportedly so that it could better facilitate coordination with its other aviation-related operations.  Google leaves behind a $15 million, 60,000 square-foot facility at the airport, and will be repaying a $1 million dollar grant for water and sewer upgrades.

State and local officials, while expressing disappointment, have variously downplayed the negative and emphasized the positive, seeking to find a silver lining in this particular cloud.  Governor Martinez was reported to have called the move disappointing and expressed support for the community (KOAT), while U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham was somewhat more pointed in her expression of disappointment (Albuquerque Business First).  New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela emphasized that the State would recover its million-dollar infrastructure investment, and noted that the situation leaves Moriarty with assets that “will be able to benefit from water and sewage lines built with the state grant. Barela said the structural improvements ‘can help attract future projects to the state.'” (Santa Fe New Mexican). Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart, quoted in several of the previously referenced articles, characterizes the economic impacts as minimal (and in a direct and immediate way, at least, he may be right) and cited some apparent, though vague, commitment by Google to work with the City to find a use for the facility.

Reactions, at least in the form of responses to news stories, have been varied.  Some cite problems with in-state higher education, others point to workforce issues, others mentioned inexperience in aviation and excessive optimism on Google’s part, and still others blame Governor Susanna Martinez (while our positions often do not align with Ms. Martinez’s, we acknowledge that blaming her directly for this one is similar to blaming her for a meteorite strike or the weather.  More likely suspects would include the Easter bunny, Godzilla, or extraterrestrials. Or maybe the East Mountain Tea Party.).

It’s clear that much of the general reaction was surprise.  Our reaction was two fold: surprise (we were surprised by all the surprise, because we were surprised by Google’s initial decision to operate here in the first place) and something more typical…

A drive to look at some data.  We admit it; we’re nerds. Acknowledging that Google’s decision election to move was clearly business-based, we wondered what local factors might have influenced the decision and started to pull some economic data together.  As we worked through the data, we recognized that one of our regional economies is clearly in distress.

That’s right; we said one of them.  There are, at the very least, two.

»» A Titanic Sinking: Google Drones Fly Away

Agenda 21 Is Coming To Kill Your Local Tea Party

by John Weckerle

Okay, maybe not.  However, having seen just about enough of the associated silliness and paranoia on the Sandia Tea Party web site, and having had just about enough of special interests and political ideologues misrepresenting sustainability for their own ends, we decided to do a little looking around and gather some information that perhaps represents something just a little closer to reality than what has been presented there and in other far-right venues.  We found a few FAQ sites and others associated with organizations officially associated with Agenda 21.  Predictably, what we found was substantially different from the interpretations provided by the Sandia Tea Party, and we’ll get to that presently.

We also decided to see what the other local Tea Party chapter, the East Mountain Tea Party, had to say about the issue, and were surprised to find evidence that the organization may be defunct.  The domain now resolves to the Albuquerque Tea Party site, and there have been no posts to the EMTP’s Facebook page since October.  With no other explanation, we must assume that the proponents of Agenda 21 are responsible for the demise.  Less clear is the reason that the Chavez County Tea Party Patriots web site, as linked from the Albuquerque Tea Party site, is now presented in either Chinese or Japanese (we’re not sure which); perhaps they’ve outsourced themselves to Asia.

Now, on to Agenda 21.  We will not provide an exhaustive description here but will highlight a few points and provide links for the perusal of our readers, who we believe to be just a little more fact-conscious than some.  We’ll begin by providing a link to the text of Agenda 21, provided by the Institute for Global Communications (alternatively, you can download it in PDF format from the UN website).  It’s a big document – 351 pages – but what we’ve read of it does not seem to support an impression of a socialist/environmental extremist conspiracy.  A bit of “myth debunking” can be found in the article “Agenda 21: Just the Facts” presented by the Better World Campaign.  Of critical importance: Agenda 21 is not a treaty, is not binding in any way, and does not afford the United Nations any particular authority for implementation.  The article “What Is Agenda 21?” by the UN Dispatch explores the “controversies” surrounding the initiative, including the conspiracy theories being presented by various special interest and political groups opposed to what they describe as “sustainability” – which is, of course, not sustainability at all.  The Wikipedia article on Agenda 21 similarly points out the initiatives voluntary and non-binding status.

A non-UN organization composed of local governments – ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability (formerly the International Council for Local Initiatives) describes itself here, stating in part: ” ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries.  ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. We have developed stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.”  In its article “FAQ: ICLEI, the United Nations, and Agenda 21: Setting the Record Straight About ICLEI,” ICLEI-Local Governments USA states (among other things): “ICLEI is a champion of local governments. Working with elected officials, ICLEI’s World Secretariat helps voice local government needs and priorities during international negotiations and agreements that will effect local governments, such as the U.N. climate negotiations and the upcoming Rio+20 summit.”

Sustainability is not an international socialist-environmental extremist conspiracy.  It is not out to take anyone’s land away, prevent anyone from having children, or force anyone into indentured service as the only means to get drinking water.  We encourage our readers to follow the links provided in this article and learn more about Agenda 21 and sustainability initiatives in general.

Announcement: Forum on Rural Small Business Health Care and Development Resources

The Estancia Valley Economic Development Association, USDA Rural Development, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will host a forum on Rural Small Business Health Care and Development Resources this Friday, August 19, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. at the Moriarty Civic Center at 202 Broadway in Moriarty.  The forum will also discuss how the health care reform act will affect the rural resident.

Tourism Is Very Serious Business

by Roger Alink, Founder of Wildlife West Nature Park

Tourism is a very serious business!

Many people including local government leaders do not understand the importance of tourism to their community’s overall economic well being.  People who are considering moving a business to a new community often start with a visit to a local tourism attraction. To lose a tourism industry is to lose the basis for your economic development.  These quotes are from Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, world tourism consultant.

New Mexico tourism is a 6.1 billion dollar impact to the economy annually.  It is the second largest industry behind the government.  It is a clean industry with very little impact on the infrastructure because tourists spend money and leave to go home afterwards.

Edgewood has two very important tourist attractions with SASS Founders Ranch and Wildlife West Nature Park.  People from all over the world and all over the country come to Edgewood to visit and celebrate the many events held at these two locations. The documented economic impact of these two attractions is in the millions of dollars with motels, restaurants, retailers, fuel providers, auto repair, and fees for various services all adding to the gross receipts that directly benefit all area residents. This is important new revenue that doesn’t come from local taxpayers.  It is critical that all community residents and leaders understand and support these events and attractions.

Economic Development Association Gets New Web Site

Editor’s note/disclosure: The web sites referenced in this announcement were developed by your editor’s company, WeckTech, but the community web sites have since been discontinued.  While WeckTech was an investor-level member of the Estancia Basin Economic Development Association at the time this article was published, the firm has since terminated its membership in EVEDA.  

by John Weckerle

The Estancia Valley Economic Development Association (EVEDA) web site has been given a facelift, including a full redesign and short photo slideshows for each of the valley’s  communities.  Virtual tours have been given a new look and feel, as well.  Community web sites developed by WeckTech – Moriarty, New Mexico and the Surrounding Area and Edgewood, New Mexico and the Surrounding Area – have been updated to include the revised links to the EVEDA virtual tours.

Press Release: USDA Forest Service Builds on Recovery Act Investments to Create More Jobs in FY 2011

Editor’s note: FY 2011 began October 1, 2011

Forwarded by Arlene T. Perea, Mountainair Ranger District

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2010 – USDA Forest Service Officials announced today that the agency will build on job creation efforts through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments during the upcoming fiscal year by continuing to emphasize job creation and new partnerships with the private sector to create sustainable, green jobs.

“The Forest Service has been making investments in communities around the country and creating great new jobs in rural America,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.  “By focusing on new jobs and private sector partnerships, the Forest Service will continue to build a forest restoration economy to achieve Secretary Vilsack’s and the Forest Service’s forest and rangeland restoration goals.”

Recovery Act funds expire at the end of fiscal year 2010, but Tidwell explained that the Forest Service will retain its “Recovery Act focus” as part of its regular program of work in FY2011.  This will be accomplished using unobligated balances from FY 2010, along with FY 2011 appropriations, allowing the Forest Service to continue to restore forest resources while meeting the needs of rural economies.

»» Press Release: USDA Forest Service Builds on Recovery Act Investments to Create More Jobs in FY 2011

Wind Technology Training Coming To Moriarty

by John Weckerle

Residents of the Estancia Valley and the surrounding area will soon have the opportunity to receive specialized training in the area of wind energy technology, according to a recent press release issued by Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari.

The program comes as a cooperative effort between Mesalands, the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association, the City of Moriarty, and the New Mexico Workforce Connection of Central New Mexico.  According to North American Wind Research and Training Center Director Jim Morgan “This pilot project provides the essential technical courses needed to assist students in obtaining a wind industry job and in turn supply area wind farms with wind energy technicians that will already have basic knowledge of the industry.”  Courses will cover safety issues, and will include subjects such as basic electricity, mechanics, hydraulics, and turbine safety.  Classes for the 8-week training program will be held in Moriarty, and some training will take place at the NAWRTC, including climbing the college’s 1.5 megawatt wind turbine.  Students who successfully complete the program will receive an Occupational Certificate in Basic Wind Energy Technology.

Those interested in applying should contact the New Mexico Workforce Connection of Central New Mexico at 832-6774.

According to the Mesalands wind energy technology program web site, the college also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology, as well as customized training programs.  Completion of the NAWRTC facility is scheduled for September 2010, and Mesalands has already installed a 1.5 MW General Electric wind turbine.

Senator Visits Estancia Valley, Discusses Jobs, Health Care Reform

by John Weckerle

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman and Local Elected Officials

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman and Local Elected Officials

Last Wednesday, New Mexico’s senior Senator, Jeff Bingaman, addressed the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association (EVEDA) and local officials from the Valley’s communities.  Mr. Bingaman discussed two high-priority issues, job creation and health care reform.

On job creation, Senator Bingaman discussed two bills already passed: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the recently passed jobs bill, commonly known as the HIRE Act.  According to Mr. Bingaman, the State of New Mexico recently estimated that it has been awarded $4.3 billion in ARRA funds.  According to the map application at the site, some of that, perhaps $3 million or more, has made it into the coverage area.   Mr. Bingaman highlighted the HIRE act as well, noting its provision for a payroll tax exemption for employers hiring new employees who have been out of work more than 60 days.  The HIRE Act also purportedly increases the amount of equipment small businesses can write off in a single year (as opposed to depreciating it over multiple years) from $125,000 to $250,000.  Mr. Bingaman expressed a hope of passing a new bill for clean energy projects.  He also made mention of the new solar equipment manufacturing plant to be built in Rio Rancho, which may employ as many as 1,500 people by 2014. »» Senator Visits Estancia Valley, Discusses Jobs, Health Care Reform

Public Service Announcement: Regional Small Business Forum

The City of Moriarty, in cooperation with its chamber of commerce and the towns of Edgewood and Estancia, will hold a regional small business forum on Tuesday, January 25 beginning at 1 p.m. at the Moriarty Civic Center.  For more information, see the City of Moriarty announcement.

Public Service Announcement – Credit Workshop

The New Mexico Small Business Development Center at  the Albuquerque South Valley SBDC will be holding a credit workshop on May 26, 2009 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.  For more information, see the full announcement.