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New nonprofit focuses on RR, county economy

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Bye bye Rio Rancho Economic Development Corp., hello Sandoval Economic Alliance Inc.

Months of discussions between Sandoval County commissioners, local business people and Rio Rancho city officials have come to fruition with the creation of a new nonprofit organization tasked with bringing jobs and businesses to the county and its largest city.

Sandoval Economic Alliance Inc. will build on work done by the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corp., which ceased operations on Monday, said Joe Sierra, Rio Rancho Market President for Century Bank, in a news release issued Thursday.

Sierra is the chairman of the 14-person Economic Alliance board that includes Rio Rancho City Manager Keith Riesberg, Sandoval County Manager Phil Rios and local representatives from businesses such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, US Bank and Don Chalmers Ford.

The release said the organization will work on adding jobs that bring new money into the area, retaining and expanding existing businesses, and supporting entrepreneurship. It also will work with other local, county and state organizations to enhance and diversify the region’s economy.

City and county leaders hailed the start-up of the group.

“Diversifying the local economy through new job opportunities is paramount for Rio Rancho so that it can remain one of the best communities in the nation,” said Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull in the release.

The city had contracted with RREDC for economic development efforts since 1992 but last year councilors voted against renewing the contract. Councilors Mark Scott, Lonnie Clayton and Chuck Wilkins cited a lack of communication with the council and coordination of efforts with city staff, and a dearth of new ideas.

Before disbanding, the RREDC board of directors voted to transfer all of its assets and intellectual property to Sandoval Economic Alliance, Sierra’s release said.

In an interview, Sierra said that the new organization will soon start searching for a president and CEO who will be paid from funding provided by Sandoval County and Rio Rancho. The county and the city each committed $200,000 in their current fiscal year budgets to economic development.

The organization will also seek support from the private sector, Sierra said.

He said the Economic Alliance will initially operate from the RREDC offices near Southern and N.M. 528 in Rio Rancho and will retain two of the former organization’s remaining employees. Noreen Scott, longtime director of RREDC, stepped down in March.

Sierra said the board has developed a business plan that will follow some of the recommendations in a report prepared for Sandoval County last year by economic development specialist Mark Lautman.

The report estimated Sandoval County needed nearly 11,000 new jobs by 2023 to keep pace with projected population growth and job losses, and to reduce unemployment to 2007 levels.

The report identified health and social services, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism among the sectors with the most job growth potential.