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An eye-opener

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

LAS CRUCES — Leaders from across the state visited southern New Mexico to learn about the challenges and opportunities in the rapidly growing border region.

“It’s been eye-opening,” said Mary Homan, New Mexico Gas Co. economic development and community affairs manager, during a three day tour organized by Leadership New Mexico.

“The program itself, of course, is filled with community leaders from all walks of life, from all industries, all across the state so we’re coming at it with different eyes and different visions and of course different perspectives,” Homan said.

She’s among 42 participants in the core class of Leadership New Mexico, a non-profit organization that fosters understanding of issues, challenges and opportunities across the state. The current group includes CEOs and top managers as well as emerging leaders from 16 communities in New Mexico.

“The whole idea is to take a group of people like this from around the state and educate them about different parts of the state and things they might not have thought of,” said Leadership NM President Patty Komko.

During the annual 10-month core class, the leadership group takes a series of trips across the state focused on specific themes. The visit to southern New Mexico was the third of six sessions and highlighted economic development. It included a tour of White Sands Missile Range and a scheduled visit to the bustling Santa Teresa border crossing, the state’s international trade hub.

Mike Crossey, CEO of TriCore Reference Laboratories, at the War Eagle Museum in Santa Teresa during a Leadership NM trip. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“I think there’s great value, and that’s why we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing for years, taking people to places they may never have been before,” said Komko, one of the founders of Leadership NM.

Now in its 23rd year, the organization does not take a position on political issues but could not avoid the impact of the political battle over funding for the border wall during the January visit.

Customs and Border Protection officials canceled a scheduled tour of the Santa Teresa port of entry because of the government shutdown, so the group drove down to the border in Santa Teresa on their own to get a firsthand look at the existing barrier.

The trip to southern New Mexico included a series of talks by economic development experts and business leaders. Scott Maloney, CEO of technology company Seed Worthy and a senior partner with Crain & Co., a global consulting firm, discussed the challenges of building a skilled workforce.

“They are absolutely surmountable, and in a lot of ways, with a little bit of creativity and a little bit of hustle, are something you can turn into a benefit,” Maloney, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” told the group. He credited the state’s Job Assistance Training program with helping him develop homegrown talent and create new opportunities.

“Now, we’re defining manufacturers as the builders of anything including software, including pharmaceuticals, anything,” Maloney said.

The leaders on the economic development tour of southern New Mexico said the experience was an opportunity to understand the region and each other better.

“This kind of gives us an opportunity to bring everybody together for shared experiences that creates new dialogue. So it’s exciting because through that dialogue there are so many opportunities for growth in the state, individually and for our companies,” said Homan.

Leadership New Mexico Class of 2019