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Revitalizing New Mexico’s Coal Communities through EDA Partnerships

Northwestern New Mexico is a pocket of beautiful desert scenery with rich natural resources and a swath of the preserved Navajo Nation lands. Historically, this area has also been a key coal-producing community, but as production slowed a need for more diverse economic opportunities for residents has arisen.

This need was recognized by the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments (NWNMCOG), an EDA-funded, regionally-focused Economic Development District (EDD) that brings together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

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The planned Milan and Prewitt Industrial Parks located on the I-40 corridor, east of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were supported by EDA grants aimed at assisting coal communities.

With the support and planning of NWNMCOG, two EDA Assistance to Coal Communities grants worth nearly $1 million each were awarded in 2019 and 2020, specifically to launch a critical job retraining program and facilitate the creation of two industrial parks.

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A student of the Greater Gallup Industrial Workforce Program, supported by EDA grants, trains in welding.

The Greater Gallup Industrial Workforce Program began in Gallup, New Mexico, and upon implementation featured two 10-week classes in construction, welding, and other high-skill careers with regional demand. The courses provided instruction and national certifications in heavy equipment operation, construction education, and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The program also continues to provide ongoing support for graduates, including help with job placements and assistance in acquiring further certifications.

In addition to the successful workforce program, the EDA grants were leveraged to conduct site studies for the Milan Industrial Park and Prewitt Industrial Park, both of which are located in Opportunity Zones. Each park is a key piece of attracting new industries to Northwest New Mexico, ensuring job creation for the high-skilled workers prepared to fill those roles.

“This funding provides a lifeline to set a new course for the region's future,” said Evan Williams, Executive Director of the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments. “EDA has invested in our vision to move from a boom-bust to robust economy and create opportunities so that families can prosper where they are rooted.”

The initiatives led by NWNMCOG have revitalized and diversified the economic landscape for communities impacted by declining coal production in Northwestern New Mexico. The success of the Greater Gallup Industrial Workforce Program and the promise of new business in the Milan and Prewitt Industrial Parks will directly lead to more and better jobs for New Mexicans.

Tags: Economic Development Districts

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