BERNALILLO — With four weeks in her new position as Sandoval County’s new director of economic development, Dora Dominguez, is still settling into her new role.
In addition to experience with major economic development entities in the state, Dominguez grew up in New Mexico and relies on her past experiences to guide her future plans: plans that encompass Sandoval County’s economic future.
Last week the Observer sat down with Dominguez to ask her point of view on Right to Work, the completion of Paseo del Volcan and her goals for her first year in her new position.
Q: What is some of your past work experience and why did you chose Sandoval County?
A: I have been working in the field of economic development for over 20 years, if you count chamber management. I was with the City of Albuquerque as their senior economic developer for four years, and we had a lot of big projects that came through Albuquerque.
Prior to that, I was with the State of New Mexico Economic Development Department, and all during that time, I very much embraced what it is to be a professional economic developer, professional. I’ve gone through a lot of course work, all the torture in the pain to be certified through the International Economic Development Council.
I accomplished this while working a fulltime job and raising a family. I put myself through what I consider the hardest test I have ever taken in my entire life.
I moved with my family here to New Mexico when I was 10 years old, so you can say I have seen how the economy has fluctuated in my time here. I found that you have to go out in search of development.
In Sandoval County and everything that is happening and being planned, it is important that we keep an eye how to attract new jobs, quality jobs. There is a lot of history and culture to this wonderful place.
Rio Rancho and Sandoval County’s uniqueness is that it is so new. When you have a city that is 50 years old… It’s that whole newness of the area that excites me.
This is a place where you can really make a difference because of how open the county is to trying new things without a lot laws that would prevent things from happening in a economic sense.
Q: What are your goals for your first year in this new position?
A: We get to see the completion of a five-year marketing and strategic plan for the county. Avalanche Consulting is getting ready to present their first draft report.
This plan is really a call to action. What do we need to do?
We need to go out and assure the community that there is a plan and a strategy, an aggressive strategy to attract business. Then we need to measure and go back out and report to folks that this is what we’ve accomplished.
It’s now about a return, on what we contract with SEA (Sandoval Economic Alliance) to provide to the community. So my first year’s goal is to listen to the business community, teach them skills and get out of their way and let them run their businesses the way they see fit.
Q: How would you address county residents who say current economic development plans are taking too long?
A: I think it’s fair to say that it does take time to cultivate and make projects happen. That’s why we have professionals like Steve Jenkins (president of SEA) that go out and recruit.
I think that any existing business is going to say, “Hey, it takes a long time for me to grow my business.” It takes financing and access to a quality workforce, contracts, all kinds of things.
It comes down to how we can go out and recruit industry. What are our industry clusters? Do we know somebody that is in that industry sector?
It really comes down to looking at skill sets that are transferable to other industry sectors. You may be a mechanic, but your job affects other industries, and pushing economic growth forward means understanding the ripple effect each job has down the pipeline.
It takes time, but what I want to add is that we all play a role in it.
Q: What is your stance on Right to Work?
A: I haven’t heard directly that this issue has been one of the reasons we’ve lost a prospect or a deal.
Right now, it’s really been about site readiness. This has been the biggest complaint or issue I should say that I have heard can make or break a prospective business coming to town.
Q: What should be done first, build Paseo del Volcan to attract businesses or bring in businesses to complete Paseo del Volcan?
A: You have to complete the road to bring the businesses in. To not build the road is to say you don’t support basic infrastructure.
When site selectors look at what investment is the government putting to an area to create an attraction…to build a foundation that will support industry and manufacturing, they have to see that. Site selectors have to see that we’ve made that investment.
The other beauty of Paseo del Volcan is the state recognizes that the traffic is there; no one is going to say that it’s not. That road is a vital piece of the infrastructure that we need to move products in and around.
I think it speaks to partnership, regionalism and how we can support that. So I do think we’ve got to build the road.