Boomtown? Gallup’s EDC positioning the city, county for success

Friday, May 06, 2022

By Bernie Dotson

Gallup, N.M. — The city of Gallup and McKinley County are on the cusp of an economic devel- opment moment that is a long-time in the making — and the Greater Gallup Economic Develop- ment Corporation (GGEDC) plays a big part in it.

For a while, the talk around town has been about Gallup’s misses — the large-scale employers who, for whatever reason, have passed on locating to our area. Name a manufacturer that has set up stakes in New Mexico, and it’s a safe bet to say that they at least took a look first at McKinley County.

The misses have frustrated Gallup’s economic development leaders. The ground-breaking shovels have been snatched away too many times. The city and county governments, alongside the GGEDC, have been trying for a long time to bring economic development to the area, but problems such as being located in a rural area, atrocious health care and a school system that historically has had some of the worst performing schools in the state have worked against them. And while there exists a large pool of potential employees, companies say they are largely untrained and unskilled. Throw in the corona virus crisis, and there are challenges that few can tackle.

But rather than wallow in disappointment or be distracted by criticism, Patricia Lundstrom, Exec- utive Director at the GGEDC, has quietly attracted small, yet significant job creators, while also building out what the head of the Gallup-McKinley County Chamber of Commerce, Bill Lee, calls “product.”

The GGEDC deals with business recruitment, retention and expansion — in a state which is the second poorest in the U.S., and whose unemployment rate consistently falls in the Top 5 statewide. Then, there’s the fact that just 7 percent of the county land mass is taxable.

“In McKinley County and Gallup, we know who we are and we know who we aren’t,” Lundstrom said not long ago on Gallup’s KGLP (91.7 FM) radio station.

The GGEDC operates on a $250,000 annual budget and with a handful of employees. It is tasked with administering and coordinating economic development programs to foster a strong local economy, spur business and job growth and provide for a better quality of life. As such, the organization focuses on programs and activities that are tantamount to improving economic op- portunities and increasing the financial well-being for individuals, families and businesses.

Lundstrom — elected to the N.M. Legislature in 2001 and currently the chairwoman of the Leg- islative Finance Committee — believes building on transportation assets is a critical component of the economic development picture. The approach is simple: Acquire property in strategic lo- cations, particularly in close proximity to the interstate, and develop use-plans.

The Energy Logistics Park in west Gallup, along County Road 1, comes with a $20 million infra- structure upgrade and that location focuses on the transportation of coal. And the GGEDC’s workforce partnership with the Southwest Indian Foundation trains and places graduates in area jobs of every kind.

Gallup and McKinley County’s economic development zenith promises to last more than a mo- ment, as all of this “product” is vital to growth. But there remain naysayers and second-guessers to the GGEDC’s mission.

I challenge those who doubt and criticize to be more quiet and respectful and let Lundstrom lead; you will be surprised at how much greater greater Gallup becomes.

Bernie Dotson is a Gallup-based free-lance journalist and media consultant. He holds a bache- lor’s degree in Humanities and Spanish from Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL.

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