The City of Rio Rancho is putting into place a new incentive to recruit and expand small businesses.

City Councilors Jim Owen and Dave Bency introduced a proposal to expand the Gross Receipts Investment Policy (GRIP) at the Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting Wednesday night at City Hall. Governing body members unanimously approved the first of two readings needed to implement the measure.

GRIP provides for the city to reimburse a portion of gross receipts taxes for a specified time as an incentive for a qualifying business to come to or expand in Rio Rancho. Now, the ordinance requires a business to have $3 million of projected gross receipts tax-eligible transactions per year after three years of operation or at least 25 employees, with exceptions for restaurants, hotels and significant square-footage expansions.

Under proposed changes, from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023, those qualifications would be reduced to $1 million in GRT-eligible transactions or at least five employees. The reimbursement rate would increase to as much as 75 percent of the city’s share of GRT.

New construction and redevelopment of existing space, including infrastructure upgrades, are eligible.

Bency said attracting small businesses would encourage use of vacant commercial spaces.

“There’s need everywhere you look. There’s already infrastructure in a lot of these places,” he said.

Bency said the changes were proposed to last for three years because it takes time to let business owners know and get things done, but the program shouldn’t go on too long.

“Bottom line is, well, either it’s going to work or it’s not going to work,” he said.

City Economic Development and Business Relations Manager Matt Geisel said GRIP, first adopted in 2002, had been designed for big-box projects.

“Those aren’t happening anymore,” he said.

Geisel added that small businesses bring value and roots to a community.

When Councilor Jeremy Lenentine asked if three years was enough to know if the strategy would work, Geisel said it was hard to determine what the perfect span of time was, but the city could consider extending it if there was a lot of interest in three years.

Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Schalow supported the change and said it could let small businesses that were renting make the lifelong investment of building their own facility.

“This creates that opportunity for expansion, growth,” he said.

In other business, governing body members:

• Approved submission of a loan application for up to $15 million to help the University of New Mexico build an orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation center at Sandoval Regional Medical Center. Higher Education Gross Receipts Tax revenue will repay the loan, if the New Mexico Finance Authority approves it.

• Rezoned land along Westside Boulevard west of Unser Boulevard from low-density single-family residential use to industrial and business park use. Upon the recommendation of Development Services Director Anthony Caravella, the governing body rezoned less land than originally proposed to lessen impact on neighbors.

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment creating a committee to review technical standards for building projects, with the understanding that they would discuss the matter further in a work session Tuesday and make changes during the second reading.

• Removed a site plan for a multi-family dwelling in Northern Meadows from the agenda at the request of the applicant.

• Approved a master plan for a new Papillon Village subdivision south of Mariposa.

• Approved a new master plan for the Lomas Encantadas development south of Enchanted Hills, but remanded a proposed zone change for part of the area back to the Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Board.