BERNALILLO — Sandoval Economic Alliance announced the five businesses selected for its economic gardening program during the virtual Sandoval County Commission meeting Thursday night.
SEA is a private organization that works in economic development. The alliance is 6 years old and renews a contract with the county annually.
SEA has measurable goals it must meet in order to keep the $200,000 from county.
In June, the county commission tasked SEA with the development of the Economic Gardening Initiative pilot program and implementation of the Sandoval County Economic Development Action Strategy.

Economic Gardening Initiative
 SEA CEO Fred Shepherd presented to commissioners Thursday.
The Economic Gardening program selects established businesses in a position to grow into their next phase, Shepherd said.
These participating businesses are:
• Concrete, Aggregate & Asphalt Testing LLC;
• Deluxe Design;
• Mezel Mods;
• PLTi; and
• DHF Technical Products.
This program is an involved process for businesses and SEA, Shepherd said.
Once a business is selected, SEA begins its onboarding procedures. Through this process, SEA utilized a research company called the National Center for Economic Gardening, which has access to over a 100 databases that can clue businesses in on potential clients, Shepherd said.
“We start out with these onboarding phone calls, these discovery phone calls, where they are really digging in and finding out what the needs are for these companies. Once the research and focuses were identified for each of the companies, they then went back and confirmed whether they were on the right track,” he said.
Next, research begins and is reviewed, Shepherd said. Then potential customer lists are released and the implementation phase can begin, he said.
After that, SEA regularly checks in with the company. One company was amazed by the large about of data and potential customers they received after the research, Shepherd said.
Norm Ruth is the vice president of Deluxe Design, which is in the implementation phase of the program.
“We are extremely pleased how SEA and the county are really stepping up in offering aid and assistance to businesses within the county, city and community,” Ruth said. “It has been extremely helpful, and we are honored to be chosen for this particular program, economic gardening.”
The company is yielding results with new clients, and he believes it will continue to grow and be able to hire back employees laid off due to the pandemic, he said.
Commission Chairman David Heil, District 4, said SEA has been learning how to help other businesses through the new program.
“Once this pilot group of five has been launched and is afforded, there could be a next group,” he said.
The economic gardening concept works well, especially when the companies are passionate about it, Heil said.
“Economic gardening is not going in and telling a company to change the way they operate their manufacturing line or whatever. It’s the use of sophisticated research tools to help them find new markets for their business,” he said.

Economic Development Action Strategy
SEA focused on three committees in regard to the action strategy, Shepherd said in his presentation. They are:
• Community Engagement Committee;
• Sites Committee; and
• Infrastructure Committee.
Heil is a member of the Action Committee that oversees the strategy and of the Community Engagement Committee. He periodically sits in on Site and Infrastructure committee meetings, he said.
The Community Engagement Committee focuses on educating the public and politicians on what economic development is and what SEA does.
The Site Committee identifies parcels of land that could be developed. It initially focused on eight to 200 acres, but as time went on, inquiries came in about parcels of land five to 25 acres, Heil said.
“So instead of focusing on the 200 acres, let’s go show and create this inventory of property that are of smaller sizes. So that, in essence, benefits Rio Rancho and the Town of Bernalillo,” he said. “Instead of looking for the elephant, let’s go get a bunch of rabbits.”
The Infrastructure Committee deals with making sites as “shovel ready” as possible, Shepherd said. The committee utilizes the VeriReady program, which lists shovel-ready sites with much of the paperwork and approval process already done.
Shepherd said progress is being made on the action strategy.

Other business
Also at the meeting:
• In a unanimous vote, the commission denied raises for elected officials.
• The commission unanimously approved extension of the Sandoval County Emergency Declaration through Dec. 31, 2021.
• Commissioners unanimously approved Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputies being compensated for two hours per pay period for being on an on-call rotation.
• The commission unanimously approved Sandoval County Detention Center using $90,000 to replace rooftop air-conditioning units.
The next commission meeting will be Jan. 14. It can be live-streamed at sandovalcountynm.gov by clicking the “meeting videos” tab.

Staff writer at Rio Rancho Observer