Governor takes tour of Clovis

 

David Grieder

Clovis City Commissioners Sandra Taylor-Sawyer and Juan Garza and Ag 50 Chair Sid Strebeck listen to Martinez during a business roundtable.

CLOVIS - Cutting a custom cross-section of Clovis from the base to the chamber and down to the cheese plant, Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday made clear her intention to stay busy in the final months of her time in office.

The tour started at Cannon Air Force Base with the signing of an executive order cutting away some of the red tape behind occupational license requirements in the state, and ended with the governor literally cutting a ribbon on the expansion of Southwest Cheese' manufacturing facility. During a business roundtable in between, Martinez highlighted some of the accomplishments of her seven-plus years in office and recognized goals for further improvement.

"We're not a flyover state anymore," she said during the afternoon luncheon hosted by the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce and the Clovis Industrial Development Corp. "We concentrate on every part of the state to bring jobs anywhere we can. ... We're not done yet. We are not done yet."

Some figures she shared: since she took office in 2011, unemployment is down 2.6 percent and the state is looking at its "healthiest budget ever" with a $670 million surplus compared to a deficit of $250 million before her first election. Incentivizing new business and keeping taxes low were key items, she said.


"The state lived beyond its means, which means we just kept digging into your pockets," she said of years past. "It wasn't easy to reject the tax increases ... but I promised the people I wouldn't."

Responding to an audience member's question about the state minimum wage, Martinez was emphatic about avoiding the $15 per hour minimum adopted by other states, saying it would "kill businesses."

"That's why it's so easy to fish in the ponds of other states, because they've made it so expensive to work there," she said.

Addressing another question about the state's public schools, particularly as to how their performance may impact future decisions about a potential Base Realignment and Closure process, Martinez acknowledged the continued struggle with reaching higher educational standards.

When she entered office the state's graduation rate was 63 percent, and it currently holds at 71 percent, Martinez said. That figure is simultaneously the highest in the state's history and the lowest in the nation, a source then of both pride and disappointment for the governor.

She advised a strategy of both "reward(ing) those good, amazing teachers" and facilitating the recruitment of well-qualified state newcomers - the latter group of which is well-poised to benefit from the executive order Martinez signed earlier in the day.


In the presence of wing commanders from Cannon and Kirtland AFB, USAF undersecretary John Henderson, military spouses and media, Martinez signed Executive Order 2018-037, aimed at eliminating "meaningless regulations" among the state's licensing bodies.

The governor told The News later that those occupied as teachers, attorneys, accountants, engineers or cosmetologists would be among those likely to save time and money from the order.

The order "ensur(es) occupational license requirements are not overly burdensome for individuals and businesses, as well as eliminating outdated regulations and aligning best practices across the state's licensing bodies," with "specific provisions to aid military families stationed in the state," according to a news release.

What that means for those in military families is they can more easily "transfer their licenses and accreditations" after newly moving to the state, the release said. The unemployment rate among military spouses is four times higher than the national average, Martinez said Tuesday, a number she called "unacceptable for what you give and what you do."

Among "meaningless requirements" the order hopes to eliminate are additional tests currently required of new New Mexicans, Martinez added. Effective immediately after she signed the order, the state's various boards and commissions are required to review their training and testing requirements, fees and practices for those "requirements that make people feel good, but (lack) output," she said.


Cannon's Wing Commander Col. Stewart Hammons said he was "deeply grateful" for the measure. Henderson called it a "substantive step" toward helping military families integrate into their new communities, the strategic importance of which "is without question."

The governor concluded her visit to Clovis by cutting a ribbon at Southwest Cheese, recognizing $140 million the company has invested to expand its operations, poised to "increase Southwest Cheese employee numbers to more than 400 in Clovis and the facility's operational capacity by 30 percent," said a news release.

Speaking to gathered company executives and local representatives Tuesday afternoon, Martinez stressed the importance of "diversifying our economy and letting job creators do their thing." The state has provided $350,000 toward the expansion of the international company.

"New Mexico involved in national and global markets," Martinez said. "I think that's exciting just to say it."

Regarding a new prospective economic opportunity in eastern New Mexico, Martinez declined to throw her support behind any of the particular racino contenders vying for the state's sixth and final license, of which there are several in Clovis and one in Tucumcari. That will be considered exclusively by the state's Racing Commission, she said, and "there will be zero politics in the decision making."

 

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