Archive for Estancia Valley

On Electricity and Communications

By John Weckerle

We join you after a bit of a hiatus (nearly four months) from New Mexico Central Headquarters, which has now been without electricity for something on the order of 29 hours, give or take a few. This has been one of the longest outages in recent memory – we recall one some years ago that made it to about 30 hours – and it is beginning to take its toll on some of the frozen food, at least; there’s only so much ice can do.

We write, though, not so much to lament the loss of foodstuffs as to express deep concern as to how the communications have been handled by our friends at the New Mexico Central Electric Cooperative (NMCEC). We’re seeing a pattern here with respect to getting information out during outages, and we respectfully suggest that there is room for improvement.

Consider this: Several hours after the outage began on Friday, a call to CNMEC led to a recording that 13 transmission-line poles had been blown down by a weather event, and that restoration of power was anticipated sometime Saturday. Another call on Saturday morning brought us to a message that the damage had now reached 18 poles, and that no estimate for restoration was available. And shortly after that, any meaningful channel for obtaining information on the situation simply went dark. We attempted all options on the CNMEC phone system. All went unanswered – even the dispatch line that includes reporting emergencies. That’s right – CNMEC had essentially shut itself off from the world, and had another part of the grid experienced a problem (perhaps in Torrance County, which was essentially unaffected by the situation according to the cooperative’s website), there was no way CNMEC could have received the report.

It was not until 6:40 p.m. Saturday that the following message appeared on the CNMEC site:

We had reports of a Funnel Cloud that hit in the area and with it a roof of a building and it tore down 16 transmission poles. These are 80 feet tall transmission poles with distribution line built under.
Along with the mud and all the debris, it can cause a small army to descend down on the scene to clean up and then put back up the power line.
We apologize for the extended time with out power but our men and women are working tirelessly and some with out time off to get the lights back on.
Estimated time of power to come back in is the evening.

We suggest that this is rather too little information, too late, and as we are now well past “the evening” for most purposes we are beginning to wonder just which evening to which the cooperative was referring. We digress, however, because the main issue here is that CNMEC is missing – and has been missing for some time – the boat in terms of communicating with its members during extended outages.

First, regardless of call-in volume, there should always be some way to report additional outages and emergency conditions. The idea that there is simply nobody picking up the phone – we let it ring several times for five to ten minutes – is entirely unacceptable. There are any number of emergencies that can arise from electrical power or the lack thereof, and the fact that the cooperative was unreachable during this outage is of serious concern.

Second, members should always be able to get reasonably up-to-date information on extended outages so that they may prepare to deal with them. We understand that, while websites based on older technologies may be difficult to update “on the fly,” there are options that allow this – for example, WordPress-based sites (essentially free) or establishing a Facebook page (absolutely free) linked from the CNMEC website that would allow more-or-less real-time updates on outages that members could easily access from cell phones, tablets, etc. even while without power.

We strongly recommend that CNMEC develop a strategy for bringing its communications with its members during outages into the twenty-first century, and do it quickly. It seems absurd that an organization that seeks to sell Internet services to its members would delay in doing otherwise.

Estancia Basin Water Planning Committee Meeting

The Estancia Basin Water Planning Committee will hold its regular meeting at the Administrative Offices of Torrance County in the Commission Chambers at 205 9th Street in Estancia on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

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

Monkeys On Trial In The Estancia Valley?

by John Weckerle

We found ourselves not-too-terribly surprised to read recent articles (“Charter School Warned,” “PED warns charter school against religious teachings“) regarding accusations by the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) that the Estancia Valley Classical Academy (ECVA) may have strayed over the line between religious and secular education.  Our lack of surprise – and, to some extent, our amusement – stems from the fact that both articles mention an individual who was featured in the context of his views on “science” (including an apparent bent toward creationism or, at least, anti-evolutionism) in one of our previous articles (See our August 11, 2011 article, An Article About Articles).  That individual, Roger Lenard, is variously described as “one of the school’s founders” and the president of the school’s governing council.

Given the subject of these stories and the concerns reportedly expressed by parents regarding what their children are being taught about science, we find ourselves perplexed that Mr. Lenard’s fame in the creationist universe has thus far been ignored by the journalistic community.  In addition to our article and the New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) article cited therein, we find references to Mr. Lenard as a “creation scientist” (here), and a “celebrated creationist,” (here).  He is prominently figured in the NMSR article Creationism In New Mexico, and quoted here as saying “Creation scientists hold revealed Truth as supreme, other forms are subordinate.”

Given the many references to Mr. Lenard’s reported creationist beliefs and purported attempts to insert them into academic curricula, we certainly understand why parents would be concerned about what may be taught in science classes at a school over whose curriculum Mr. Lenard likely wields substantial influence.  We urge parents to get involved and continue to engage the PED on this issue and get to the bottom of the matter.


Relay For Life Sponsorship Opportunities Available

by John Weckerle

We’ve received the sponsorship packet from the Estancia Valley Relay for Life Event Chair, Brenda Smythe, who is in her second and final year as chair.  Brenda has informed us that her co-Chair for this year, Cassandra Garcia, will assume the Event Chair responsibilities for next year.

Last year, the event raised over $13,000, which was down from previous years.  This year, the Relay for Life hopes to double that total.

For more information, see the sponsorship flier, or contact Brenda at (505) 705-5445 or Cassandra at 505-974-9627.


Relay for Life Kickoff and Planning Meeting

by John Weckerle

Checking in on our friends at Mountainair Announcements, we find that the Relay for Life of Estancia Valley will be holding a Kick-Off Celebration at the Estancia Community Center on March 31, 2012 from 10 a.m to noon.  For more information see the Mountainair Announcements article or call Brenda (704-5445), Cassandra (974-9627) or Erica (705-5123).

PSA: Today’s EBWPC Meeting Canceled

From Cheri Lujan at the Estancia Basin Water Planning Committee:

Please note that the EBWPC meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 19, 2012 in Moriarty has been CANCELED.. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Good Morning

by John Weckerle

It’s been a while since we posted a sunrise picture; for what it’s worth, the opportunities have been a little limited of late, but this morning afforded a good one.

Sunrise over the Estancia Valley this morning.

USDA Summer Food Service Program

by John Weckerle

Checking in on our friends at Mountainair Announcements, we find news on the US Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals to children without charge.  According to Mountainair Announcements, the program is currently offering lunch at Mountainair Elementary School, Ernestine Garcia Park in Willard, Quarai National Monument, Manzano Convent in Manzano, The Torreon Community Building in Torreon, and the Tajique Community Building in Tajique.  For additional information and meal times, see the Mountainair Announcements articles here and here.

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.

Public Service Announcement: Estancia Basin Resource Association Annual Meeting Tomorrow

The Estancia Basin Resource Association (EBRA) will hold its annual membership meeting Saturday, January 15th, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Moriarty Civic Center.  Refreshments will be provided, and door prizes will be available.  The schedule includes:

  • Chuck DuMars will speak on the subject of Water law concerning junior Water rights, irrigation wells, and domestic wells.
  • David Lightfoot will give a presentation on monitoring taking place in the Manzano foothills.
  • Find out about the results of the fires and thinning in the watershed.
  • Election of new directors.

For more information, contact Art Swenka at 384-0176, Ted Barela at 705-5049,  or Jace Alderson at 269-2658.

Good Morning, Central New Mexico

by John Weckerle

With the snow from our recent winter storm nearly gone, this morning brought us another in a series of beautiful sunrises.  For those who missed it, and for those who saw it and want to see it again, we provide another look here.

Sunrise over the Estancia Valley.