September 29, 2023 – Tucumcari, NM – The Sustainable Economy Advisory Council (SEAC) met at Mesalands Community College at the North American Wind Research and Training Center (NAWRTC) this past Tuesday, September 26, 2023.
SEAC was established in 2021 by New Mexico House Senate Bill 112,which mandates the state’s New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) to develop a strategic plan to diversify New Mexico’s economy beyond dependence on fossil fuel revenues. The bill also established an inter-agency task force, the Sustainable Economy Task Force (SET Force) and SEAC to guide the process of developing the strategic plan over 5 years.
The meeting at Mesalands was only the third in-person meeting convened by SEAC which had been meeting virtually since the pandemic.
The 14 member SEAC is chaired by James Povijua, one of 6 representatives appointed by NMEDD, including representatives of: disproportionately impacted communities, local government, business and industry, and organizations experienced in sustainable economic development. Eight members of the committee are appointed by the NM Indian Affairs Department and include representatives of tribal governments. Administrative support for the public body is provided by the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office at NMEDD, led by Shani Harvie who currently serves as the designated Chair of the Sustainable Economy Task Force.
Tuesday’s meeting focused on the buildout of New Mexico’s wind power industry and workforce development. Andy Swapp, Director of Renewable and Sustainable Technology at Mesalands gave a tour of the training facility for attendees before the meeting and Janet Griffith, President of the Faculty Senate welcomed everyone to the college. William Consuegra of Invernegy presented about the North Path project which includes a wind farm being constructed near Clayton and transmission lines to carry the energy to the Four Corners area. Rick Robertson, of Arcosa Wind Towers spoke about the new wind tower manufacturing plant scheduled to open in Belén in 2024.
Raquel Gomez, Special Projects Coordinator of the Office of the Secretary, Department of Workforce Solutions shared information on the current and projected workforce in New Mexico’s wind industry. She pointed out that over the next 10 years, wind technician will be the second fastest growth occupation in the country. Andy Swapp then shared some history of the wind training program and upgrades that are needed for the wind turbine and facilities as well as support for outreach and recruitment.
Gabriel Pacyniak of the University of New Mexico Law Clinic spoke about the efforts of a team that includes staff from Single Space Strategies, the Center for Civic Policy, Mesalands and Quay County have attempted to secure federal funds through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act to support the NAWTRC. Pacyniak urged the New Mexico Legislature to step in to support this unique and vital New Mexico program.
Other notable attendees to the meeting included Quay County Manager Daniel Zamora, Tim Hagaman, Regional Representative of the Northeast Front Range, Community, Business and Rural Development Team and Jennifer Myers, State Lead for the Community, Business and Rural Development Team.
SEAC will develop policy recommendations to state agencies via SET Force and legislators. The group meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at 3pm. The public is welcome to join these meetings virtually and information about SEAC, SET Force and New Mexico’s economic strategic plan can be found at https://edd.newmexico.gov/about-us/setf/.