WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments has received a $250,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to promote entrepreneurship and business development in Luna, Grant, Hidalgo and Catron counties. Udall and Heinrich helped lead a task force — initially convened by former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in 2010 — that led to this grant award, which will fund an innovative initiative to promote job creation by expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy in Southwest New Mexico.
The new EDA investment will jumpstart implementation of the Southwest New Mexico Energy and Green Jobs Task Force’s Regional Strategic Plan for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which is a plan to build Southwest New Mexico’s potential to create jobs by expanding the region’s clean energy economy. The plan sets goals for decreasing energy usage and costs to local governments, businesses, and homeowners; promoting partnerships with the private sector to create jobs; and educating and engaging residents about the benefits of energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption, all within a framework of regional cooperation.
The plan also calls for establishing a Regional Office of Clean Energy and Sustainability and lays the groundwork for creating an incubator to promote entrepreneurship and business development in the region. It provides resources to establish a Regional Entrepreneurial Development Association to help make existing services more accessible to local entrepreneurs. In concert, these organizations will provide local residents with technical assistance, business and marketing plan advice, and other business development services to help start and grow businesses and projects in the clean energy field, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and energy efficiency.
“Southwest New Mexico is rich in renewable energy resources, and this investment will jumpstart efforts to promote entrepreneurship and create jobs by capitalizing on our abundance of wind, sun and ingenuity,” Udall said. “Years of collaboration between local leaders in government, business and other community organizations has put Southwest New Mexico in an unparalleled position to grow its clean energy economy. By investing in rural entrepreneurs and clean energy, this project is a clear win that will be a model for communities across the nation.”
“This investment is welcome news and demonstrates the high level of commitment the Economic Development Administration has to diversify our energy economy,” Heinrich said. “Establishing the Regional Office of Clean Energy Development and Sustainability will promote ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and job creation across southwest New Mexico. Our state can and should be America’s epicenter of the clean energy economy and our rural communities will continue to play a critical role in that effort. I congratulate the Council of Governments and the Southwest New Mexico Energy and Green Jobs Task Force partners on this important step in their regional collaboration.”
“We are excited about moving this effort forward in the four county region,” said Priscilla Lucero, Executive Director of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments. “This funding will help us advance the many efforts of local governments and community leaders to make Southwestern New Mexico a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy (EERE). I want to commend the local governments for working collaboratively and for their commitment to working together on EERE and economic development goals.”
Over the last five years, Luna, Grant, Hidalgo and Catron counties have worked together through the task force to lay the groundwork for this project by forging innovative partnerships around energy and economic development, building regional capacity for job growth and completing energy projects. With the support of Udall and Heinrich, the task force has collaborated with local governments, federal and state agencies, businesses, financial institutions, educational and research institutions, non-profit organizations and other community leaders. The task force meets quarterly and all interested residents are invited to participate.
EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds. Promoting collaboration on economic development at the regional scale, clean energy development, and entrepreneurship are strategic priorities for the EDA.