By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Quay County will be one of the counties in the east central New Mexico region that will participate in a comprehensive regional economic development program aimed at allowing counties and communities to pool their resources.
Stronger Economies Together is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the agency’s rural development director, Terry Brunner.
The SET program is a joint initiative formed with the Western Regional Rural Development Center at Utah State University, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension and USDA Rural Development to provide assistance in community and economic development planning, said Ernie Watson, USDA spokesman.
Watson said the East Central SET is the latest New Mexico project chosen to participate in this economic development planning initiative. He said the project would include Guadalupe, Torrance, Quay and De Baca counties.
Watson said the USDA Rural Development and NMSU would team with representatives from each county to develop and implement a regional economic development strategy.
Watson said the purpose of the SET is for communities of a region to come together and develop an economic development plan for the region.
He said many times, communities in a region have the same ideas, goals and issues or problems. “This gives the rural communities an opportunity to work with each other and use each of their resources to the benefit of each other,” Watson added.
Watson said it has become increasingly ineffective for a single rural county to successfully create, attract and retain jobs by itself. He said in today’s economy, it is far more likely for economic development to occur when rural and urban counties work together to assess their resources and implement a plan that builds on their assets and comparative economic strengths.
“The success of developing better economic opportunities and creating more jobs in rural America has a better chance when everyone works together to reach a common goal, and that’s what the SET program intends to do,” Brunner said.
Watson said bringing rural communities together increases the amount of resources available to help the growth of economic development in the region as a whole. He said a community may have money that other communities might not have or they might be able to increase their collective strength to assist in areas such as grant writing.
“The SET program examines the critical areas of the economy to determine if that particular region might hold a competitive edge in the domestic and/or the international marketplace,” according to the USDA release.
The technical assistance and educational support for the region will come from NMSU extension educators, rural development staff and appropriate Regional Rural Development Centers for the one-year period of the project.
The goal of the SET program is to implement an economic development plan in the SET region in six to seven months. The plan will be designed to:
• Develop a model for action and accountability.
• Design leadership structure appropriate for regional plan implementation.
• Identify technical assistance needs for success.
• Secure resources needed for success.