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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:43 pm 
I raised the subject of "doing" economic development over on the thread about the possibility of a Denny's Restaurant being built on the site of the now closed Red Barn. Local economic development has long been floundering non-starter in Grant County. The history, as I know it, of official econdev activity in the area began in 1978 with a nonprofit group formed and supported by the Phelps Dodge Corporation - the Southwest New Mexico Industrial Development Corporation.

At some point, I think in 1989, its name was changed to the SILVER CITY/GRANT COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION. SIGRED was the operational name when I moved here in 1998, and the entity had the contract to run the Small Business Development Center (a WNMU/State program). I was a client of the SBDC when Gila WoodNet was begun and enjoyed a pretty good relationship through the five year Ford Foundation Community Based Forestry Project, where SIGRED was the fiscal agent. But the people I worked with were SBDC staff and I didn't have much interaction with SIGRED, or its board (which was basically the same board as the SC/GC Chamber of Commerce).

In about 2005, a separate innovative movement came to town stimulated by the Sirolli entrepreneur support methodology. Lots of the small business folks who were not influential in the SIGRED/Chamber world got pretty fired up about the Sirolli thing. About the same time Gov Richardson sent $250,000 our way for econdev, and pointedly said it was not going to be funneled through SIGRED (I know nothing of the backstage politics to that). The Sirolli group was favored but did not have the proper tax status to be given the money directly, so fiscal agency was given to WNMU. Long story short, most of the $250,000 evaporated and the Sirolli group didn't get enough of it to establish any durable traction.

Another notable event of about the same time was the bagging of a call center, as a result of SIGRED/SBDC efforts to recruit out-of-area businesses to relocate here. It is the only econdev effort that I know of that resulted from official activities. It was quite controversial: on the positive side it was a business that brought in dollars from the outside and it employed a lot of people. The primary gripes about it were that it cost us a good bit in subsidies to get it here and it played havoc with the sustainability of the local workforce. Many locals were upset that so much was done for this company while nothing was ever done for the small-businesses already here. I never did a real evaluation of the pros and cons, though I'm pretty sure it brought in more money than we spent on it in its short lifespan, but it was certainly not stable or sustainable. That's what led to the County owning the old Walmart building, and what has us now pouring money into the Business and Conference Center boondoggle (that public venture will always cost us more than it brings in).

After the Sirolli and call center skirmishes, SIGRED disappeared for a while, only to re-emerge as the Gila Economic Development Alliance - still the same legal entity as the Southwest New Mexico Industrial Development Corporation from 1978. Same board, same overlap with the SCGC Chamber of Commerce. The Gila EDA attempted to step back into its old role as the local econdev entity, and was even designated as that in the most recent Grant County Economic Development Plan (written by a consulting company from Texas). But the State gave the nod of officialdom to the SW Council of Governments a couple of years ago (though the COG does not have any capacity or experience for "doing econdev"). The Chamber had its own implosion around 2010, and went functionally dormant for several years. During that lull, the Green Chamber of Commerce came into existence, led by small-business people who had not been afforded any influence in the Old Guard groups. Also around 2010, Senator Bingaman convened the Green Jobs and Energy Task Force, for the purpose of creating a grassroots econdev plan that focused on sustainable jobs and alternative energy related businesses. That plan, after five years in the making, rolled out about a year and a half ago - it's called the Four County Strategic Plan (4CSP). It includes many ideas on how to accomplish healthy and durable economic development that have never been in any of the prior efforts and plans. Green Chamber members were prominent in that five-year planning process and the Old Guard was conspicuously absent.

One of the fundamental changes promoted by the 4CSP is to leverage actual entrepreneurs into guiding roles in economic development efforts, instead of relying solely on government bureaucrats.

One other thing to mention is the Office of Sustainability, a very productive entity. While it is not recognized as an econdev organization, in fact it is. I will explain that further on.

To recap the basic elements of local economic development, there are three fundamental things that can be done: 1) increase money and other benefits coming in to the area; 2) keep money and other benefits circulating locally; 3) reduce money leaving the area (that includes loss to other valued resources, too).

Please add your knowledge to this thread, make corrections to things I didn't remember quite right, and ask questions. It's time we started "doing economic development" productively!


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 Author: almilligan
PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:37 pm 
Don't forget the industrial park over by the airport that never had any industry.

There's also the wood pelleting factory that hasn't been in operation for years.


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 Author: hayranur
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:59 am 
Thanks for undertaking this story, Gordon. Here's a question.

Some months ago the Big Ditch Rising project was looking for space where homeless people could safely camp, preferably under a roof. The two large pellet factory buildings were suggested. Someone said that the mayor owned them. The mayor told me that they are, in fact, owned by someone from (and in) New York, who would like to sell them, for a profit. Later, I was talking to someone who had been involved in setting up the pellet business, and he asked, 'How on earth did that property come to be owned by a private owner? It was a community development project with lots of public money, and donors like church." Good question. Can someone on this thread answer it?


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 Author: almilligan
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:09 am 
The project was run by the Dahl-Bardines, the parents of the woman that runs the Toad. They set up a non-profit and got donations from a number of sources. It only was in operation for about two years. This was at least 10 years ago. The parents have been in Mexico for years.

May be able to get more info from the county clerk.


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 Author: hayranur
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:18 am 
This is a post I've sent to the Independent for their politics section -- which I haven't seen yet. So ...

Grant County Goodies Socialism.

Grant County Goodies is a Facebook group of, currently, 15,648 members. That’s more than half the population of Grant County.

It’s better than a scanner for information. I posted a photo of a dog that wandered into a meeting one afternoon. In seconds there was a reply — her name is Iris. I’m driving around looking for her. Dog and owner reunited in five minutes thanks to Grant County Goodies.

The group’s purpose is to share stuff, and information. People post what they’re offering, usually with photos: female pit bull 5 weeks, homemade biscochitos, nice table $20, half cord apple wood must pick up. And what they need: ISO a four bedroom apartment, help find Jack missing since morning, looking for tattoo artist. People ask for help and offer it. FREE is often the listed price.

Nobody is looking to get rich on Grant County Goodies. That’s my point.

It’s the difference between ‘Everybody needs food to live. How can we work together so that everybody has the food they need?’ and ‘Everybody needs food to live. How can I use that to make myself rich?’ When everybody is working together for mutual benefit yes money is being made, but it’s not all going into one wallet. You could call it cooperative capitalism. Or you could call it socialism.

No big deals. Just local people — neighbors — sharing our stuff and information. Caring for each other. That’s a big deal.

p.s. I’m campaigning for Bernie Sanders for President because he’s working for this kind of world.


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:37 am 
I was involved with that project and can provide the complete history, but it's a long story. Remind me after I get done with the economic development series that I'm going to try to get out this week and I will give it a shot.


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 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 6:09 pm 
applause to hay.r !

Gordon: perhaps you know about the town's sustainability dept. I had heard that a mandate on their operation was revenue neutrality.
if this is so it would concern me greatly.

Syzygy Tile is a local business that employs a couple of dozen and as far as i'm aware, it has both started and remained in business without any substantial gov't participation.
to me this business is the exemplar of focus, determination, rolling with the punches and survival. I don't ever remember a time when they made an excuse for externalities, they toughed it out, survived.


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:41 am 
I heard a rumor about the Office of Sustainability but don't know any details. The recent (sort of) grant of $250,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, that followed five years of developing the Bingaman Green Jobs and Energy plan, was supposed to expand the OoS from part-time in Silver City to full-time for the SW four county region. But the fiscal agent, the SWNMCOG (who has the designation as the "official" economic development entity for the four county region) arrogated complete control of managing the grant and has eliminated funding for most of the beneficial focus areas, including support for the OoS. I am baffled by it, but it seems to be a common bureaucratic move - demonstrating one instance of why governmental entities enjoy such widespread lack of respect.

On the subject of the pellet plant, here is an outline of the history:

-Phil Dahl-Bredine started the Cooperative Ownership Development Corporation (CODC), a nonprofit partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces to incubate businesses run by disadvantaged poor people (1992?)
-A core business for the CODC was a pellet plant intended to use woody biomass from logging and forest thinning
-CODC got an economic development incentive from the TOSC (the land where the pellet plant is located)
-CODC built the plant with diocese support, grants, and a loan from the NM Loan Fund
-CODC partnered with Todd Schulke and the FS to do a small demo forest restoration project on the Sheep Corral Rd (1996)
-CODC was struggling to do the forest thinning and I got involved because of experience and equipment related to small tree logging from Idaho
-Todd and I started Gila WoodNet to do the forest work in collaboration with CODC (1998)
-CODC and GWN were awarded a Ford Foundation Community Based Forestry grant (1999)
-Phil was forced to relinquish Directorship of the CODC due to an internal "hostile takeover" (2002)
-GWN determined that making pellets for the residential fuel market from forest thinning residuals was economically infeasible (2002)
-CODC succumbs to poor management and a flawed business plan and was cut off from further Ford Foundation funding (2003-2004)
-NM Loan Fund is granted sole ownership of the property in a sort of foreclosure action (2008?)
-NM Loan Fund sells the property to an aspiring pellet manufacturer from NY for about $250,000 (2009?)
-NY owner keeps a low profile (I never met him, in spite of numerous attempts), apparently eventually learning the hard way of the economic infeasibility of operating the pellet plant


Last edited by gorwest on Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Author: hayranur
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 8:59 am 
Thank you, Gordon, for that depressing history.

If we're serious about changing from fossil fuels -- more serious than when this adventure took place -- does the feasibility look any better now for starting up the pellet factory?


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 9:51 am 
In a word - no.

Biomass should not be used for energy production as a primary use. The reason is that it is not "energy dense" enough, meaning that there isn't really very much of it compared to the demand And it costs a lot to gather up, including the use of fossil fuels.

As an example, GWN looked at the fundamental numbers for using woody biomass to replace natural gas in the Silver City area. Calculations showed that the equivalent energy annually would use up all the available wood supply within a 30 mile range in a year and a half.

Focusing on not using so much fuel is the only good option.


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 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:20 am 
Gordon , please name some names here so they may receive some feedback, please !

we see paper flying everywhere from government and see poverty, pedestrian death, arrogant state utilities commission,
failure to move forward on past plans.

lets party while rome burns !
no wonder a potty mouth and a socialist are being so successful running for president!

we live in the so called sun belt, solar photovoltaics can be had, even in relatively small quantities for less than 50 cents per watt. ordinary people with some building skills can , today, whip these up into an energy producing system.
there's no longer any economic reason why they cannot even be used for process heat, by hooking them up to a heating element that an apprentice electrician would know how to do.

passive solar has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to replace a substantial portion of a dwelling's need for fossil fuel for domestic heat.

the imperative is increasingly moral, the reluctance is increasingly political and economic.

I see good hearted people increasingly distracted and aimless in the face of an ever more apparent threat


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:29 am 
I assume you mean the USEDA grant problem?

The SWNMCOG staff and board.

http://swnmcog.org/members.html


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 Author: hayranur
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:42 am 
note to Crow -- I got a 'you can't post another reply so soon after your last one' which resulted in my losing a whole post. Can we change this? I don't see the point. The 'previous' post wasn't even to this thread.

Reconstruction. Thanks, Gordon. Speaking as someone who has just replaced a pellet stove with another pellet stove for our primary domestic heating, what about a more modest goal than 'replacing all the natural gas use in Silver City.' Could 'providing pellets for domestic heating' not cooking or industry be reason to revive the pellet factory?


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 9:31 am 
The pellet plant couldn't make it because the cost to make and sell pellets was higher than the product selling price. That problem has not changed, it involves raw material source and scale. Pellets can be made profitably in other places with different circumstances.

We are working on the biochar process so that a person could cook and heat using the syngas (smoke) while making biochar (soil amendment, toxic water filter, sequester huge amounts of CO2). The benefits are an order of magnitude greater than burning wood for heat.


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 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 10:42 am 
Hay...
Gordon...
I guess my point was totally lost!

we live in the sun belt

the sun should be the primary means of heating our houses

it needn't be expensive!

it can be done to almost any house

Zero carbon heat is very easy to do

nobody in gov't wants it because its dis-intermediating, that is less tax revenue from pellets, transport, electricity.


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 Author: hayranur
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 12:07 pm 
ynotwrite -- I got your point and agree. But I want some supplemental heat in my house, too.

Gordon -- sounds good. How does the gas compare with others (methane) if released into the atmosphere?


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 3:48 pm 
The gas is wood smoke. It is produced and immediately used during the process of making biochar.


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 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:11 pm 
I guess I like backup heat as much as the next person, and I burn wood I find around town. this is definitely a suboptimal solution, even with the best stove and catalytic converter attached. one of its beauties, however, is it has no tax burden, can be done almost entirely by one's self.

in the medium to long term, creating a new carbon based industry that uses the atmosphere as a sink for our heating or other energy desires, whether its called renewable, green or some other form of washing is simply adding to the overall warming effect.

need more be said ?


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:52 pm 
The primary purpose of this project is to make biochar - heat is a byproduct.

Biochar improves soil productivity, saves water, and sequesters large amounts of carbon.


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 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:39 pm 
I would be interested to see a carbon budget for its overall production, including all the transportation inputs.


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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2016 9:18 am 
Wood is about 50% carbon by weight.

The source is from ecosystem restoration and fuels reduction projects, which have a myriad of other embedded benefits. The removal already needs to be done, so the fossil fuel component for acquisition needs to be allocated accordingly. But even if we don't:

Diesel fuel per 10,000# of wood = 70# C
10,000# wood = 5,000# C
Estimated 10% of total C in syngas = 500#

Carbon balance: 5000# - (70# + 500#) = 4,430# sequestered per 10,000# woody biomass.


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 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:36 am 
thanks, G.


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