Jerry Schalow, the president and CEO of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, was on hand at Wednesday’s Sandoval County Commission meeting to inform the commissioners and the public about a new program the chamber has rolled out.

Discover Sandoval was started this year to bring employers to Sandoval County and keep employees here. Schalow said there are 152,000 residents in Sandoval County with 105,000 of those in Rio Rancho, but 62% of Rio Rancho’s workforce leaves for a job outside of the county. The shortage of jobs in Sandoval County is a big factor in that.

“Out of 152,000, there’s only 31,000 jobs in Sandoval County,” Schalow said. “That is basically 4.88 residents per job. If you look at Santa Fe, with a similar population, there are at 2.55. We are way behind on job creation. We need to, of course, bring more people into Sandoval County for jobs but secondly, we also need to fill the jobs we do have.”

The chamber is hoping to recruit employers to Sandoval County by countering the issues out-of-state job seekers have raised such high crime rates, concern over poor education, lower wages and not enough entertainment options. Schalow said Sandoval County has an solution for each issue.

“The ironic thing is Sandoval County is the best-kept secret in the state of New Mexico,” Schalow said. “Rio Rancho, for instance, has the lowest crime in the Southwest for any community over 100,000 people. Corrales is the safest community in New Mexico, Rio Rancho Public Schools is the top-rated school district. We have all of these jobs, engineering, construction, vocational, health care, those wages are highly competitive with other cities. Our cost of living is lower and then See Sandoval, when folks say there’s nothing to do, just go to that website the county put together. See Sandoval has a ton of opportunity to go see things.”

The purpose of this program is also to show that Sandoval County is a desirable place for businesses and jobs to come to. Schalow and the chamber are working to build the Sandoval County brand and will use social media to increase brand awareness.

“Identity is key, so developing that identity establishing Sandoval County as an oasis,” Schalow said. “What I mean by an oasis is there’s not a lot of folks outside of our community that know that we have great schools, public safety, cost of living, top employers, we have all of those things. Even someone like Intel, Intel is listed as an Albuquerque business, not a Rio Rancho, Sandoval County business. Nobody knows that it’s here. They don’t even list it on their website that it’s here; they list it as Albuquerque for all those job vacancies. We found that we’ve got to build a brand identity for Sandoval County. So our focus points are creating an identity, telling the true story about Sandoval County.”

Schalow said it’s not just the chamber that’s working to solve this problem. Business and community leaders, economic developers, Rio Rancho Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College are some of the partners helping with the program.

The chamber launched recently to help target out-of-state workers, local businesses that are hiring and community partners. The program will also involved a more active social media to help grow brand awareness, engagement and audience.

The goals of the program, basically, are to grow jobs in and tell the story of Sandoval County.

“The bottom line is we’re not going to fill these job vacancies until we can tell our story and outrun any of the negatives that are happening in the state right now,” Schalow said.