Gov. Susana Martinez toured the Taos County Economic Development Corp.’s Food Center Monday (June 30), touting $100,000 in state funding for the Salazar Road facility and pledging further support.
Local Development Act funds from the New Mexico Economic Development Department are financing new roofing, ceilings, flooring and other upgrades to the food center that is a hub for local small businesses.
“Our food center really needed some help,” TCEDC co-founder Pati Martinson told more than 30 local officials and entrepreneurs while welcoming the governor Monday morning.
“Having the food center renovated, we hope, is just the beginning of another revitalization of TCEDC," she said, describing recent upgrades funded by the Local Development Act as "badly needed."
Over the last 20 years, more than 100 businesses have grown out of the Food Center’s commercial kitchen, which has also sustained significant wear and tear operating around the clock.
“The roof would leak in different places,” said Frank Zinno, co-founder of Z-Best, a line of baked goods made in the Food Center. “When the snow would melt, it would leak where we store our dry goods.”
Matt Thomas, founder of the Matt’s Bakery line of gluten-free cookies, offered his own business as an example of the TCEDC’s impact.
“I think of this as a small business incubator,” he said. “During the recession, I didn’t have work but I needed to do something with my hands.”
Matt’s Bakery now has two full-time employees and has doubled in size during the last year, he told the governor.
The grant is worthwhile, local officials said.
The commercial kitchen is a model for back-to-basics economic development, Sen. Carlos Cisneros told The Taos News.
“It’s timely,” alluding to the recent closure of Questa’s molybdenum mine and what he characterized as a need to refocus development efforts on small enterprise. “This facility is going to play an integral role in developing agricultural businesses.”
The senator and Rep. Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales began working with the state’s Economic Development Department approximately one year ago to steer funding to the organization, he said.
Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, who accompanied the governor on her visit to Taos, pledged further support for TCEDC through the Local Development Act.
“You have my commitment. We are going to make this a shining star,” the governor said, suggesting the Food Center could serve as a model for economic development across the state.
TCEDC will require more than funding for infrastructure to survive, however, according to Martinson and co-founder Terrie Bad Hand.
“This money doesn’t fund people,” Bad Hand told The Taos News, referring to the $100,000 in state funding.
The organization’s staff of 10 has been cut in half during recent years and securing funds to hire personnel remains a major challenge.
The governor toured the kitchen and sampled Z-Best scones as well as Pepe’s Salsa, both products made at the Food Center.
She also peeked inside TCEDC’s Mobile Matanza.
“When I read about it, I thought ‘only in New Mexico,’” she said of the slaughterhouse on wheels.
The governor’s visit to Northern New Mexico Monday also included a stop in Angel Fire to discuss plans for a new veterans cemetery. Veterans and local officials sought to have the cemetery located in Taos but Martinez said the proposed site in Angel Fire would be more accessible to a broader population.
“If we have it in Angel Fire, it is more accessible to about 21,000 veterans and families in Northeast New Mexico,” she told The Taos News, adding travel to Taos would be more difficult.
While Martinez visited Northern New Mexico, Democratic Party nominee for governor Gary King attended a conference in Albuquerque on child welfare and well-being — both areas in which the state has ranked poorly in recent years.
“I don’t need to go and pretend I care about kids,” Martinez replied when asked by a reporter why she did not attend the 2014 Kids Count Conference, which a spokesperson for the governor described as being aligned with a "far-left" group.
“I don’t wait for a campaign to worry about kids. I’ve been doing that for 25 years,” she told The Taos News, referring to her work as a prosecutor. “That’s nothing but a little show.”