Business Year in Review: Industries flocked to Clovis in 2007

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

To economic developers 2007 brought the promise of new industries coming to Clovis. To farmers, the year brought in a combination of a great crop and great prices.

On the other hand, the same year saw a flat housing market. But things are looking up for next year, according to Realtor Gayla Brumfield.

The interest of companies looking to locate in Clovis has increased this year, according to Gene Hendrick, a business recruiter for Clovis Industrial Development Corp.

The majority of industries that have expressed interest in moving to Clovis were alternative energy companies. Blue Sun Biodiesel started construction of its Clovis Biodiesel plant this year. It is slated to start production of biodiesel from vegetable oil around February.

The plant will produce about 15 million gallons of biodiesel a year and create about 13 jobs.

A second biodiesel company, American Renewable Fuels, has started to design its Clovis plant and will begin construction next year. The plant will produce about 75 million gallons of biodiesel a year from animal fat and create about 50 jobs.

Both biodiesel plants will be located in the Industrial Park in south Clovis.

Other companies that have come to Clovis this year include White Hat Energy, to whom the city donated land in August, through a local economic development tax, for its biogas facility, and AquaRanch Industries, which plans to convert the former Frozfruit plant into a fish farm. The two companies expect to create about 750 jobs collectively in five years.

Hendrick said he suspects the interest in Clovis came after the Southwest Cheese plant opened in October last year.

“It let people know that Clovis is open for business,” he said. “We went for years without anybody coming to town.”

Curry County Extension agent Stan Jones said 2007 was a great year for agriculture. But the big winners this year were wheat farmers, who saw an abundant crop and the highest prices for wheat in years.

The price of wheat went up to $5.44 a bushel and most farmers reported yields between 50 and 60 bushels an acre in July.

Jones said an increased demand in wheat brought the prices up, and a combination of good moisture and timely rains helped produce more of the crop.

But while the price of wheat is still high, Jones is concerned the wheat crop might not be as productive next year.

“We’re going into a winter right now where we haven’t had much moisture and so things have looked good, but right now things aren’t looking good for a wheat crop next year if we don’t start getting some moisture,” he said.

While industries now see Clovis as an possible location, the housing market remained flat after Cannon Air Force Base received its new mission.

The new mission has created a dip in the housing market with people moving out of Clovis but no one moving in, said Brumfield of Coldwell Banker Colonial Real Estate.

“With the people moving out of the base, we haven’t had a lot of people coming in. The market’s been really flat,” she said.

Brumfield said in November about 420 homes were listed for sale in Curry and Roosevelt counties. The number of available homes was much lower before Cannon was targeted for closure.

But as more military personnel are assigned to Clovis, she expects the market to pick up next year.

“Personally, I think they’ve bottomed out, and I think we are heading, definitely, back up,” she said. “And I think we’ll see a pretty good gradual increase over the first part of the year and then it’ll get better and better by summer.”

Brumfield said the city should not be too dependent on Cannon for its economy. The new industries moving in to Clovis could help bring up the housing market.

“It helps to diversify our economy,” she said. “The base is so important, which we always want it to be, but one thing we kind of learned in the BRAC process is we probably need to diversify.”