Fred Shepherd, President and CEO of Sandoval Economic Alliance, speaks during SEA’s presentation to the County Commission on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Matt Hollinshead photo.

BERNALILLO — Sandoval Economic Alliance President and CEO Fred Shepherd discussed a couple key points during his presentation on SEA’s first report of Fiscal Year 2022 to the Sandoval County Commission on Thursday.

Shepherd told the commission that SEA will bring in five new companies through its economic gardening program during this fiscal year. Economic gardening centers around the idea that an entrepreneurial approach to economic development can help spark local economic growth via existing companies.

He also discussed how there’s a lack of existing industrial space for companies outside of Sandoval County to come in, adding the county’s current building vacancy rate is zero percent.

“The buildings are all rented. The buildings are leased out,” he told the Observer.

Shepherd told the Observer if there were larger buildings available for companies looking to relocate, it would be easier to attract those businesses to the county.

Already seeing companies’ desire to do business in Sandoval County, he also said the county’s at risk of losing companies looking to expand because unavailable building space leaves them with nowhere to go but nearby cities like Albuquerque and Los Lunas.

“We want to keep them here in the community, so we need to have options for them to be able to grow,” he said.

Shepherd told the commission SEA’s looking at local companies that haven’t quite reached stage 2 in the economic gardening program and helping them get to that point. Reaching that second stage means a business has moved beyond startup status, has demonstrated it has enough customers and can satisfy those customers with services provided and is seeing subsequent revenue growth.

Tapping into digital marketing
Shepherd told the Observer SEA’s economic gardening program’s working with local companies on digital marketing.

He said some businesses he’s conversed with haven’t been tapping into marketing themselves via social media platforms such as LinkedIn. He said those businesses are now trying to take advantage of that to improve their brand and increase sales.

“I can tell you right now, digital marketing is going to be key for (those businesses) because they have great products, they do great work. They just need to get their name out there a little bit more,” he said. “If we can help them open up other opportunities and avenues to be able to increase their sales, that’s going to help them be able to grow faster.”

Other numbers
Looking at SEA’s project budget, Shepherd told the commission the organization is receiving 60 percent of funding through the county and the remaining 40 percent from private funds. He also said no funding is coming from the City of Rio Rancho.

Shepherd said companies are seeing the fruits of economic gardening after one year. He also told the commission he visited 12 companies so far in 2021 as part of SEA’s business retention and expansion efforts. The original goal was to visit eight companies this year, he said.

“The county’s been very impressed with the deliverables as contracted with Sandoval Economic Alliance, the ability to tap special projects… We continue to hear from those businesses that were selected for economic gardening,” Sandoval County Director of Economic Development Dora Dominguez told the Observer, adding all the information those businesses received proved to be helpful.