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Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce sets priorities

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Gordon Moore didn’t volunteer to be the 2018 chairman of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“I was volun-told,” he said.

Moore is joking: He was elected to his one-year position, said chamber President Jerry Schalow, because of his extensive experience as a business leader and member of the Rio Rancho community.

“We’re excited about Gordon,” said Schalow. “He’s seen this area adapt and evolve. That’s important when you’re figuring out what comes next.”

Moore, the president of electronics manufacturer Lectrosonics and a longtime Rio Rancho resident, takes the reins of the organization at a time of great change for the Rio Rancho area and chambers of commerce nationally. The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce has about 450 members, and must find a way to make itself relevant in an age when networking is often done online.

Then there are the chamber’s broader goals. Asked to boil down the many priorities of the organization to a single focus, Schalow said he’d like to see the chamber focus on bringing jobs and gross-receipts taxes to the community.

It’s a priority Moore shares.

“Economic development is a powerful enhancer of quality of life,” said Moore.

The broader community

Moore was born in Las Cruces but soon after moved to the Midwest and Nevada with his parents, who were involved in Cold War-era missile programs. He graduated from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 1975 and has “been here ever since,” he said.

It was just a few years after Moore’s graduation that Intel came to Rio Rancho, creating a relationship between the technology giant and city that the community has watched closely ever since. Rio Rancho saw its Intel workforce plummet from 3,300 in 2013 to 1,200 in 2016, although the company said recently it has no current plans for further staff reductions here.

Moore, for one, said he is “optimistic” the company will maintain its presence here for the time being.

“They’ve made a multibillion-dollar investment in this community; I think they’re going to stick around for a while,” he said.

Caroline Hemmady is an engineer at Lectrosonics. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Still, Moore acknowledged that layoffs were a reminder that Rio Rancho needs to diversify its economy to prevent oversized impacts from any one employer. To that end, he said both he and the chamber support the use of economic development incentives like the Job Training Investment Program and Local Economic Development Act funding to attract out-of-state companies and to support the expansion of organizations currently based in the area.

There’s another type of diversification Moore said he would like the chamber to build on: supporting the cities that surround Rio Rancho, like Bernalillo, Cuba and Corrales.

“There’s a reason why we’re called the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce,” said Moore. “We have to make sure we’re supporting the broader community near us.”

Moore said an obvious way to do that in 2018 will be to find ways to market the businesses impacted by road construction projects scheduled this year. Such a project is scheduled for Southern Boulevard in Rio Rancho; several Bernalillo businesses could be impacted by construction on N.M. 550, according to Moore.

When asked whether the chamber was influenced by the controversy surrounding the ART project on Albuquerque-based businesses, Moore said it was part of the calculation.

“We don’t want our businesses to feel like they have to rely on local government for this sort of thing,” he said.

Legislative priorities

The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce has about 450 members. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Chambers of Commerce have long functioned as lobbying organizations for the business community, and Moore said the chamber will pay close attention to legislation that could impact its members.

“We need to ensure that any proposed regulations are likely to have a positive impact on our members,” he said. “To do that, we start by asking ourselves some questions: ‘What’s the tax-side impact? Will this encourage or discourage commerce? What’s the impact on recruiting?'”

Sandoval County, which encompasses Rio Rancho and many of its neighboring cities, recently passed a controversial business law: a “right-to-work” ordinance, which prevents employees from being required to join a union or pay union fees. The measure was passed despite an opinion from the state’s attorney general that it is illegal.

Supporters say right-to-work legislation promotes economic development; opponents say it undermines unions and lead to worse conditions for workers. For Moore, as both the chairman of the chamber and the president of a company, taking a position on such a measure is a “balancing act.”

“Lectrosonics relies very much on unions, both in terms of some of our employees and the people who work on movie sets,” he said. “And the chamber is a bilateral organization, so we have to make sure we’re serving all our members, Democrats or Republicans.”

As a result, Moore said the chamber has decided to take a neutral position on the issue.

The modern chamber

When networking can be done online with a click of a button, why join a chamber of commerce?

“The functions of the chamber are still relevant, but the methods have changed,” said Moore.

For one thing, he said the Rio Rancho Regional chamber is learning to embrace social media, not treat it like the enemy. That means using digital tools to increase awareness about the chamber as well as the businesses that comprise its membership.

There’s also been a recent push to include more organizations under the umbrella of the chamber than might typically be found. Last year, the chamber began a non-profit alliance to encourage membership from those organizations. As a result, the non-profits are able to share information with the rest of the membership about things like board and volunteer opportunities.

Moore also pointed to a recent mayoral forum held at a theater and sponsored by the chamber, which he said had a significant turnout.

“People want the face-to-face for certain things,” he said. “You still can’t get a haircut online.”

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