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Intel can’t find enough engineers in the state

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The Sandoval County Commission plans on planting a medal on representatives from Intel for being good corporate citizens.

Commissioner Don Chapman made the suggestion at Thursday’s commission meeting after representatives from the local manufacturing plant gave a quarterly report. The company has spent $2.4 million in education grants, given $3 million to United Way of Central New Mexico through the Intel Foundation and employees have donated more than 50,000 hours of their time at local nonprofit organizations.

County Manager Phil Rios pointed out that the commission regularly names community heroes, so it should be able to name a corporate hero as well.

But the company’s report on employment in the area was somewhat sobering. Last year, Intel hired 74 new employees, but only 19 of them were New Mexico residents at the time they were hired.

Liz Shipley, New Mexico government affairs manager, said finding qualified candidates with advanced engineering degrees is becoming increasingly difficult, not just in New Mexico, but all over the country.

“This is not just a New Mexico problem,” she said.

She said there is a push to improve science, technology, engineering and math education.

Intel has a strong motivation to hire locals whenever possible. If it doesn’t hire enough New Mexicans, it costs them $100,000 a year, according to the report.

The company had to pay that amount to the county for failing to hire enough New Mexicans for three of the past four years, in fact. The fee is the result of a 2004 agreement for the company to use county industrial revenue bonds. The agreement stipulates that at least 60 percent of the company’s new employees be New Mexico residents.

The company has missed that mark five times — in 2001, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012 — since 1995, according to the report. More than half of Intel’s new employees came from New Mexico in 2001 and 2006. Locals made up around a third or less of the new hires in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Intel used about $221.2 million in bond money in 2012 and paid a fee of $4 million to the county for the use of that money. Since the agreement began, the company has used more than $6.5 billion in bond money. Much of the money went to retool the Rio Rancho factory to keep up with changes in technology.

Roughly once every two years, computers become more technologically advanced and smaller, according to Kirby Jefferson, the company’s vice president of the technology manufacturing group. That’s why the company has switched its production lines and drastically reduced the size of the chips being produced, he said. Over the last several years, Intel has gone from 90-nanometer technology to 45, then to 32-nanometer technology in its production pipeline.

In other business, the commission declared Sandoval County a disaster area due to the recent floods. The declaration cites extensive damage to roads in La Cueva and the Town of Bernalillo, and concerns about public health and safety caused by the flooding.

The declaration will help the county cover the cost of repair and recovery through federal programs, according to Fire Chief James Maxon.

“We went from being on fire to being flooded,” he said.

The county also honored residents Martha Liebert and Carl Leppelman.

Liebert is president of the Sandoval County Historical Society and, before that, served as librarian for the Town of Bernalillo. She was selected as a local hero by Commissioner Orlando Lucero.

Leppelman serves as associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Rio Rancho Public Schools, where he has worked in various roles for 24 years. He was selected for the honor by District 4 Commissioner Glenn Walters.

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