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Dinelli to reveal his economic development plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli will outline a centerpiece of his campaign today – an economic development plan that calls for a $300 million expansion at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Dinelli, a Democrat and former chief public safety officer at City Hall, calls the effort “Energize ABQ.” He intends to announce the plan this morning in a news conference Downtown.

“I think what’s happened to Albuquerque is we’ve not been thinking big enough,” Dinelli said Monday in an interview.

His plan involves elevating City Hall’s economic development chief to a top position, reporting directly to the mayor.

Dinelli faces incumbent Richard Berry and retired police Sgt. Paul Heh, both Republicans, in the Oct. 8 city election.

The city has tried repeatedly over the years to make the airport more international, particularly with passenger flights directly to cities in Mexico, but none of the efforts succeeded. The Sunport doesn’t have any regular passenger flights to international destinations right now.

Dinelli said he envisions a new terminal and, perhaps, runway at the airport, with an international focus. Construction wouldn’t begin until a major company like Air Canada or FedEx signs on, he said.

The expansion would be paid for by maintaining the airport’s annual debt payments at roughly $25 million a year. Dinelli said the payments are scheduled to drop off in coming years, allowing the airport to borrow more money through bonds without having to make annual payments any higher than it does now.

The airport is an “enterprise” fund, meaning it’s run like a business apart from the rest of city government. It gets its revenue from airline fees, concessions and similar sources, he said.

Dinelli said his plan includes:

• Elevating the city’s economic chief to a job as chief executive officer for opportunity. The executive would have authority over personnel in a variety of departments and try to “streamline city government to make us the most business friendly city that we’ve ever had.”

• Pursuing partnerships with private groups to build a manufacturing center on the West Side.

• Supporting creation of a dental school at the University of New Mexico, focusing funding on pedestrian-friendly projects outlined in neighborhood sector plans and other efforts.

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