By Sterling Fluharty / Rio Rancho Observer Staff Writer
Jami Grindatto, former Intel Corp. regional director of corporate affairs, will facilitate a new economic development corporation in Rio Rancho, for at least two months, as the EDC assembles its board of directors and searches for a permanent director.
The announcements were made during Thursday’s meeting of the Rio Rancho Roundtable, a local project of NAIOP New Mexico, a commercial real estate development association.
Sandoval County and the City of Rio Rancho will invest seed money in the new EDC as part of a regional approach to economic development adopted by the county commission in January.
The city and county managers introduced Grindatto and pitched private investment in the new EDC to about 100 local business leaders who attended the meeting.
Friday was Grindatto’s last day at Intel. He spent the last 10 of his 20 years there directing government affairs, media relations, education and community engagement for the Southwest region and managing the talent pipeline for the company.
Grindatto said, after the meeting, he expects to sign a contract with the new EDC.
“It’s really exciting to be able to start on a fresh foot, to come in with some new innovative ideas around economic development,” he said.
“My short-term job is to set up the organization, get the board going, set the bylaws and let them run,” he said. “If, after that, they want to look for a candidate, maybe I’ll sign up.”
Sandoval County Manager Phil Rios credited the vision of County Commissioner Don Chapman and described how “behind the scenes, we have a small group, it’s mainly private, it’s not really driven by government,” putting together the EDC.
Rios said he wondered initially whether the county’s strategy for economic development would require a new organization. The Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation, which has operated in the city since 1992, lost its $80,000 contract with the city last year.
“I think it’s important for us to realize … we need to be investing a lot more into our business community,” Rios said. “Business expansion and retention is important.”
The future of RREDC remains unclear. In March, Noreen Scott announced she was retiring, after spending 20 years as RREDC director. Grindatto, during an interview, referred to the organization Scott used to run as “the former EDC.”
City Manager Keith Riesberg “made a bold move a couple of weeks ago,” Rios said, when he told Rios “we need a consultant that can put it all together for us.”
In early April, Rios signed a contract worth up to $60,000 with local economic development expert Mark Lautman. The contract with the county contains four major responsibilities, one of which is setting up a new public-private economic development corporation within 90 days.
The regional EDC will be responsible for procuring about 70 percent of the needed economic base jobs, which involve the local production of goods or services and their purchase by people or organizations outside the state, Lautman said.
The county strategy calls for 18,000 jobs, including 10,000 economic base jobs, over the next decade. Ten or more new economic base companies will have to start operating in the county each year to meet those goals.
“We are going to put the funding that’s required so we can move this thing forward,” Rios said as he committed the county to providing startup funds for the new EDC.
A little over a week ago, Mayor Gregg Hull responded to Riesberg’s proposed city budget for next year with the recommendation that the city spend $200,000 to contract with an economic development organization.
Riesberg acknowledged assistance from the county and Lautman.
He said the city was ready to “bring the new entity forward” and approached Grindatto “to assist us in guiding the process forward and standing up the new organization.”
Grindatto is no stranger to the business community. From 2005-09, he served as chairman and board member of Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce. Between 2011 and 2013, he was chairman of RREDC.
“As we’re putting together the steering committee to carry this forward,” Riesberg said, “we’re encouraging and wanting to see that driven by key investors in the business community.”
Joe Sierra of Century Bank, who helped start the roundtable, said “there are a lot of people moving very quickly to evolve this to where we need to be by July 1″ and “we have a lot of interest and demand from the private sector to form this alliance.”
Jeanie Springer-Knight, a partner in Springer5 Investments and one of the roundtable co-chairs, said Riesberg and Rios would be “back in June or July for a full unveiling of the new organization.”