Portales hosting development forum

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico

Portales will play host to one of five regional forums on rural economic development from 1-3 p.m. Monday at the Memorial Building in Portales.

The forum is sponsored by New Mexico First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization designed to engage citizens in public policy, which was co-founded 20 years ago by New Mexico’s U.S. senators. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman.

According to Heather Balas, president of the organization and former Portales resident, the group works on one major statewide town hall each year. This year’s town hall is entitled “Business as UNusual: Rural-Urban Economic Innovation.”

Balas said the five regional forums will help the group gather the research needed to facilitate the town hall which will be held March 22-29 in Ruidoso.

“It’s the first time we’ve taken this approach to get our research on the topic,” Balas said. “We’ve had some wonderful discussions so far. It seems to be working well.”

Balas said the regional forums are discussion based. A set of leading questions will be used to prompt discussion of the issues surrounding rural economic development and hopefully produce some innovative ideas. Solutions are not expected at the forums, but she said information gathered at the town hall meetings is used to produce a document with recommendations on the issue.

Balas said the group will present its findings during the upcoming legislative session, which is expected to address health care.

The forum is open to anyone who would like to attend. In particular, Balas said New Mexico First is looking for business and civic leaders, farmers and ranchers, educators and economic development specialists.

Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Director Sharon King is a board member for New Mexico First and is helping Balas coordinate the forum in Portales.