New Mexico’s footprint grows at Federal Reserve - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s footprint grows at Federal Reserve

Janice Lucero, president and CEO of MVD Express, became the latest Albuquerque business owner to earn a high position in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s system. She was selected to the board of directors at the bank’s Denver branch. (Courtesy image)

Janice Lucero, president and CEO of MVD Express, became the latest Albuquerque business owner to earn a high position in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s system.

Through a casual recruitment process and recommendations, Lucero was selected to the board of directors at the bank’s Denver branch. She was appointed to the position on Jan. 1.

“It is so interesting,” Lucero said of the position. “They need input, they need context. … To really understand what’s happening in their region, they need to hear from business owners and people in these communities that they serve.”

She has owned MVD Express since starting the company in 1994. There are 11 locations in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Alamogordo and Roswell. In 2017, the privatized MVDs expanded out of state and now service Montana as well.

Nick Sly

Nick Sly, assistant vice president and Denver branch executive, said Lucero’s willingness to share the perspectives of workers, as a small business owner in Albuquerque, “really gave a well-rounded view of how conditions were evolving in Albuquerque each time we talked to her.”

Lucero replaces Jackie Baca, president of Bueno Foods, who was on the board the previous two years. A standard term for the position is three years, with the possibility of a renewal to follow.

The Kansas City bank is the hub for the Federal Reserve’s 10th district. The Denver branch specifically services northern New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The southern half of New Mexico falls in the system’s 11th district and is serviced by the El Paso branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Denver’s board is diverse to match the Rocky Mountain region’s vast and eclectic cultures. Each member is tasked with bringing perspective of how business in the specific state or region functions, including updates on economic and workforce statuses. Each region’s designated board member promotes what is in the best interest of the local community they represent.

The Federal Reserve promotes financial services, supervises banks and toggles interest rates to help bolster the economy and “support stable financial system for the betterment of the public’s interest,” Sly said.

“It’s a lot of things that we sometimes call the plumbing of the nation’s financial system,” he explained of the Federal Reserve’s mission. Their purpose is so “households and businesses can reach the outcomes that they need to in a way that is very smooth and frictionless.”

It’s standard to have a New Mexico representative on the board of directors at the Denver branch. Yet the general public may be unaware of the consistent representation of their region and culture. As the nation deals from the lingering concerns of the pandemic, the uncertainty that has spread due to the Ukraine conflict and an uptick in cost of living derived from inflation, financial stability and recovery have become hot topics.

Lucero’s main responsibility is to provide feedback during monthly meetings, answering specific questions about New Mexico businesses that can help the Federal Reserve gain knowledge in order to “make sure the economy stays stable,” she said.

This isn’t the first seat Lucero has held. She’s served on various boards, including the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program, Roadrunner Food Bank and United Way of Central New Mexico. She’s also been a member of Vistage International Organization of CEOs for 19 years.

New Mexico’s influence

Lucero joins María Griego-Raby, founder, president and principal of Contract Associates Inc., and Del Esparza, president of Esparza Digital and Advertising, who were both appointed to their current Federal Reserve leadership positions in 2021. Griego-Raby is a Class C director in Kansas City and Esparza was named to the bank’s Economic Advisory Council — a position once held by Griego-Raby.

María Griego-Raby, founder, president and principal of Contract Associates Inc., is a Class C director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. (Courtesy image)

After a year on that advisory council, Griego-Raby was asked if she would consider serving on the Kansas City board of directors. A Class C director is independent from the banking industry and needs to be vetted and approved by the board of directors in Washington to verify there is no conflict of interest like connections to financial institutions, she explained.

At the Midwest hub in Kansas City, a New Mexico representative is not as common as it is in Denver. Griego-Raby is now just the third New Mexican to hold a seat at the main branch since 1996.

“It’s a tremendous honor and privilege to serve in this capacity and to also represent our state,” she said. “(The Federal Reserve) are keenly in tune to and very interested in what anecdotally is going on in our community from a business perspective.”

Contract Associates Inc. is based in Albuquerque. The company supplies commercial and government facilities with office furniture. The Albuquerque native founded the business more than 30 years ago, and also serves on the board of directors for New Mexico Mutual, the University of New Mexico’s Rainforest Innovations and Lobo Development.

No matter how much experience, her current role still requires “a lot of learning and a lot of listening, and you still gain so much information,” she said.

Currently, Griego-Raby is tasked with finding a new president for the 10th district to replace Esther George, someone who has been very well-regarded in the Federal Reserve for years. Griego-Raby has been asked to chair the search.

The search is “one of the most important things you can do as a board member” she said. “I’m excited about it. … There’s a lot of careful thought behind not just the process but the intention and the end result.” She has also been in other public service roles for New Mexico’s State Board of Finance and UNM’s Board of Regents.

Del Esparza, president of Esparza Digital and Advertising, is a member of the Economic Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve of Kansas City. (Courtesy image)

Esparza has held his spot on the Economic Advisory Council since Jan. 1, 2021.

He said of his goals while in the seat, “I want to be able to provide them with real insight on the economy in New Mexico, and what I want to take away from it is identifying trends that are taking part in other parts of the country that haven’t reached New Mexico yet that can benefit some of our businesses.”

Esparza was the leadership chair for the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and part of its executive board of directors, and has served on boards for Albuquerque Economic Development, the Heart Hospital of New Mexico Foundation, New Mexico State University’s Foundation Board, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and the United Way of Central New Mexico.

“Of all of the boards that I’ve sat on in my life … this by far is one of the most rewarding ones that I’ve had the opportunity to sit on just because of the perspective I’m able to gain from other business leaders in other states,” he said. “That gives me a tremendous amount of insight when crafting solutions for my clients.”

Esparza’s versatile background provides a unique perspective to the council. It’s not necessarily about his knowledge as a business owner, but the variety of industry professionals he has worked with, from restaurants to health care, is valuable experience for the Federal Reserve as a whole to consider.

Providing a voice

The state is maintaining a solid presence at the Federal Reserve, which Sly said is important to the way the board is supposed to function.

“One of the most important things about the Federal Reserve that often doesn’t get that much attention is how literal the word ‘federal’ is,” Sly said. “We are a regional system … so that conduct of monetary policy, which influences households across the nation, has that local connection. … For a region as big as ours, that is diverse as it is, and as complex as it is, you have to be able to hear from the community what’s happening.”

Lucero said she wants to represent New Mexico’s voice.

“I just want to be a really good conduit to have our voices heard,” she said. “These are the things that we are dealing with, and to help paint that picture of this entire region. … I’m honored to represent New Mexico … to be a part of it, not to have New Mexico lost, our voice and our concerns and what we’re doing here in terms of growing our economy.”

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