This article was originally published in the Rio Rancho Observer.
By Stephen Montoya
Amy Holloway, president of Avalanche Consulting in Austin, Texas, was the honored presenter at last week’s Sandoval Economic Luncheon held at Santa Ana Star Center.
Holloway gave several scenarios for business development that have worked in several states as the basis for SEA’s future plan for attracting business to the area.
“We are here to help indentify target audiences to be the focus of economic development,” Holloway said.
Holloway said, through her many years of experience in economic development, the country is a very unique place, development-wise.
“Modern economic initiatives are much more holistic than they have ever been,” Holloway said. “In the early ’90s, many places were going after the biggest company in an attempt to bring them to town.”
Over time, the conversation has changed, she said, with more attention being put on existing business instead of giants like Walmart.
“Then the shift goes to where are we going to find skilled labor?” Holloway said. “When you start connecting workforce development with economic development, which is absolutely critical today, then all these other topics come into play like housing and economic mobility.”
Holloway explained her company’s two-fold initiatives: Deliver an in-depth look at the county’s labor sheds due by mid December and indentify target audiences or business for the county.
“This is important because you really want to tailor your economy to those specific businesses,” she said. “This is important not just here in Sandoval County, but at the state level, to select a handful of industries to invest your assets in.”
According to Holloway, Sandoval County is growing much faster than the state average, at a rate of 6 percent over the past five years. Holloway said an average of 17,000 commuters enter the county on a daily basis for work, with an average of 43,000 leaving for work down the hill.
“Only an average of 15,000 people live here and work here,” she said. “Also, employment growth here has been flat for the most part. I do also want to point out that you have seen an increase in what you guys call ‘e-based’ jobs with a loss in secondary employment.”
Holloway produced a graphic, which indicated a few industries that have a huge upside for growth and those who are downsizing in their employable ability.
“IT, healthcare, bio-medical, are all good jobs with a great potential for growth, but we also see metal working, construction and electronics going in a negative direction,” Holloway said.
The county’s entrepreneurship, she said, is off of the charts with a count of total patents issued at 60 compared to 18 in the metro area and 12 statewide.
“You guys have patent production at three times the U.S. average,” Holloway said. “That is just absolutely incredible, but yet again it’s hard creating businesses for the future. How do you guys capitalize on this?”
Holloway led a discussion on vacancy rates and their importance to the economy, saying, “If we have a business that is interested in moving to our community, do we have a place to put them?”
She added that the vacancy rates for the county are at a low of 1.4 percent.
“We have to be investing in some property; we need product here,” Holloway said. “Because no matter what you invest in to grow the community here … you are going to get the business here if you don’t have buildings for them to expand in.”
Finding out what each interested company’s real estate needs are is the first point the county should consider for development, she said.
Marketing the available real estate that currently exists in the county to potential companies that may fit the demographic. Finally, invest in infrastructure so sites are ready to go for potential business looking to expand in the area.