Business consultation and connection to resources are the tools the City of Las Cruces’ Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program is using to invigorate local businesses, boost their staying power, and enhance their opportunities for growth and competitiveness.
Initiated in September 2020, the program created by the City’s Economic Development Department began as a pilot project at the West Mesa Industrial Park (WMIP) and the Las Cruces International Airport, both located 10 miles west of downtown. Continued support for the westside businesses and the rest of the City, will focus primarily on four major areas: access to resources, adapting, growth, and training. The City will also follow-up with the employers to determine whether they’re getting what they need from the BRE program and if the support is making a positive difference.
"The BRE program assists local businesses, first by listening to their needs and concerns and then creating a connection to available resources," said Dr. Griselda Martinez, Director of the City’s Economic Development Department.
“Addressing the impact from COVID-19 was one portion of the retention and expansion efforts embedded in the BRE program,” Martinez said. “We know that strong businesses are key to maintaining the area’s prosperity, so outreach is critical,” she said.
One of the program’s key strengths is the community partnership and agencies also committed to the region’s economic development efforts. Martinez said business owners’ responses to their calls, emails, and meetings have been favorable.
Among the BRE partners is the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, NMSU’s Arrowhead Center, local chambers of commerce, the New Mexico Workforce Connection, New Mexico’s Small Business Development Center, WESST, and the New Mexico International Business Accelerator, among others.
“As we hear from businesses on where we can help fill in the gap, the partners, which includes the City, have been extremely willing and prepared to offer existing resources,” said Deputy Director of Economic Development, Francisco Pallares. “It’s a matter of connecting employers to the right partner, whether it’s for social media training, business development webinars, job fairs, workforce training or other areas of expertise.”
Upon his September arrival to Las Cruces, new City Manager Ifo Pili quickly set his focus on improving economic development as a priority. Much like what the City has done with revitalizing downtown Las Cruces, Pili envisions that same energy going into promoting and supporting the growth of the 23 businesses at the industrial park.
“This is not a one-time shot of help. This is about building relationships with employers and an ongoing channel of communication with employers,” Elizabeth Teeters, Business Development Program Manager said. “Our goal is to be supportive from beginning to end, asking, ‘Are you struggling or do you have plans for growth?’ ‘How can we help?’ ‘What can we do for you?’ and continuously evaluating the efficacy of the program.”
“I’m really pleased this is happening in the City, and it’s working,” said City Councilor Gill Sorg. During an October 12 Work Session when the BRE initiative was presented, Mayor Pro Tem Kassandra Gandara also encouraged City leaders to avoid duplication of services between the partners and to offer support in Spanish.
"Recurrent planning meetings between community partners, ongoing communication within the City departments, and having webinars conducted in Spanish or with simultaneous translation into Spanish are examples of that effort," Martinez noted. "And plans are already underway to expand their outreach. Within the coming months, they will target manufacturing companies and outdoor recreation-related businesses, which is one of the strengths that has been identified in New Mexico to bolster economic development," she said.
Business owners can also contact Donald Bustos, the City’s business concierge, whose job is to assist businesses with a variety of City-provided services, make connections with outside partners, and overall, provide business-friendly and solution-oriented support.
Moving beyond the west mesa, Martinez said the department is working to expand the BRE program. Its sights are now set on boosting growth in manufacturing and outdoor recreation within the community.
For more information about the BRE program or other economic development programs, contact Martinez at (575) 541-2428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Las Cruces Economic Development Deputy Director Francisco Pallares meets with Brahn Sport Aircraft, 9400 Zia Blvd., owner Brett Hahn. Meeting with business owners is an important part of the Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program, as the department can learn what the owner’s needs are.
Brahn Sport Aircraft owner Brett Hahn tells Las Cruces City Manager Ifo Pili that he counts on people to walk into his store for business, and that it’s been a challenge during the pandemic.
Las Cruces City Manager Ifo Pili meets with Brahn Sport Aircraft owner Brett Hahn as part of the City’s BRE program. Brahn Sport Aircraft is an aviation parts store, in addition to selling radial engines.