Rural Economic Development Council

Secretary Barela created and appointed the New Mexico Rural Economic Development Council in October 2012 to inform department programs and to consider policy issues impacting rural areas of our state.

Four action items were identified in the first meeting of the Council in October 2012:

  • Statewide broadband deployment will be an ongoing priority for the Council and a board member was elected to participate on the Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Planning Committee.
  • Council members agreed to sign a resolution in support of Secretary Barela’s seven-point legislative package.
  • A working task force was formed to discuss capital outlay reform and funding (see FUNDIT below).
  • A task force was formed to address training needs and to plan training events statewide with topics including workforce development gaps and issues; economic development incentives and programs; preparing JTIP applications; and statewide broadband build-out and access.

Beginning in June 2013, and at several subsequent meetings, the Council identified and voted on nine priorities for rural sustainability in the department’s five year plan, Innovation Creates Diversification:

  1. Rural Commercial District Revitalization
  2. Restore Rural Programs and Funding
  3. Rural Business Incubation
  4. Statewide Commercial Kitchen and Growers Program
  5. Preserve and Encourage Extractive Industries
  6. Rural Business Recruitment
  7. Strategic Use of Capital Outlay Funds
  8. Rural Infrastructure & Project Funding Committee
  9. Prioritize Fiber Development Statewide

The Council and the department have taken action on several of these priorities.

  • The need to take a more strategic approach to project funding, identified in numbers 7 & 8, led to the creation of New Mexico FUNDIT.  FUNDIT is a group of state and federal funding agencies that meet to collaboratively identify resources to ensure a project is fully-funded utilizing all available opportunities.
  • The need for rural business incubation services led to a mentorship program that will launch in January 2015.  Each of the state’s five certified incubators will mentor a community toward a project to support entrepreneurship.  Seven communities will receive assistance specific to their goals: Alamogordo, Aztec, Zuni Pueblo, Chimayo, Columbus, Las Vegas, and Los Lunas.
  • The statewide commercial kitchen program is growing this year with an appropriation of $100,000.  The department is partnering with the La Cocina Initiative to assist nine communities.  Four will receive small grants.  If funding is received in FY16 additional communities will be served.
  • The Certified Communities Initiative (CCI) will evolve in FY16 to LEADS, a project-based grant program with more flexibility in the types of projects that are eligible.  This approach is more inclusive for rural communities that may have a project outside the scope of CCI.
  • The Council is also developing a “New Mexico Certified Economic Development Organization” designation which will replace CCI’s extensive application process.

For additional information on the Rural Council please contact Therese Varela, Division Director, therese.varela@state.nm.us or 505.827.0323.