RIO COMMUNITIES — The city of Rio Communities is taking a more proactive approach to economic development by contracting with a well-known and proven consultant to lure both business and residents to the city.
After 12 years as the economic development manager with the village of Los Lunas, Ralph Mims, the owner of Palmetto, LLC, is now working with Rio Communities, and has high hopes for the future of the newest municipality in Valencia County.
“I have a love for economic development, and I have a love for Valencia County,” Mims said. “I see a lot of potential in the growth and the economic development of Rio Communities.”
Rio Communities City Manager Martin Moore said getting someone like Mims to help grow the city is quite an accomplishment.
“We’ve been planning for economic development with people who have been involved working and volunteering,” Moore said. “By bringing in an economic development consultant, we’re trying to create an energy for the community, for the people and businesses that we care about here. We want to compliment it with growth that fits Rio Communities.”
When Mims retired in December 2020 as the economic developer for the village of Los Lunas, he saw it as an opportunity to do some part-time consultant work.
“I wanted to be close to home — I still live in Los Lunas — and I would still like to help out and try to bring business attraction, maybe retail, maybe housing, maybe industrial manufacturing to Rio Communities,” he said. “Rio Communities is a beautiful community that has a lot of potential and a lot of promise.”
With its new slogan, “Spectacular Views, Endless Opportunities,” and a new logo, designed with the help of Mims and city staff, the ED consultant said these marketing tools are just the beginning.
“People are confused where Rio Communities is located,” Mims said. “They think Rio Communities is part of Belen, and they have the same zip code as Belen. People think they’re part of Rio Rancho.
“My job, as the economic development consultant, as well as the council and the mayor, is to market the community so people from outside can know where Rio Communities is. With the logo and slogan … it creates a uniqueness and awareness. When you market the community and get an awareness out there, it attracts businesses, it attracts retail and people to the community.”
Moore says he’s confident Mims will be able to help attract business to the city, and he hopes they will be able to bring in what’s best for the city.
“We just don’t want to pick out the first thing that comes along; if it doesn’t work here, we don’t want it in our town,” Moore said. “For us, we want to make sure our state and federal partners know we are open for business, and we’re going to do it right.”
While the Rio Grande Industrial Park, south of Rio Communities, is in the unincorporated county, Mims said it’s the dream that one day it will be part of the city.
“The Rio Grande Industrial Park is a place where we can draw economic-based jobs, industry, manufacturing, warehousing, full-scale facilities. What is good about the industrial park is it creates jobs and creates commerce in the community.”
Mims also says there’s a lot of commercial and residential properties in the city that can be developed, and 90 percent of Rio Communities is in an opportunity zone.
“It’s a way to bring in investors into so-called distressed communities,” he said. “Rio Communities is not distressed but it’s the only community in the country that has 90 percent of their properties in an opportunity zone. What it means is investors can get a capital gains deferment.”
Mims said he is working with investors to come into Rio Communities to do residential housing, retail, maybe two or three strip malls and manufacturing — all within the opportunity zone.
“There’s a lot of vacant land near N.M. 47 and the Manzano Expressway that can be used for development,” he said. “I have some fires in the iron, but I can’t say what they are because we’ve signed a (nondisclosure agreement).
“We do have a pizza franchise looking at Rio Communities right now, and we also have a housing development looking on the north side of Manzano. They are wanting to do 253 homes and nine acres devoted to retail, medical and office space.”
Moore says while Rio Communities is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as an incorporated municipality, he knows the challenges of economic development.
“There’s a saying that rooftops bring retail, but at the same time, retail brings rooftops, too,” the city manager said. “We need a grocery store, we need a pharmacy — maybe not a big, fancy one, but something where people can go pick up their prescription medication. We need something that gives people jobs. Those are the types of economic development we need in Rio Communities.”
Since Mims has been on board, he’s had meetings with three housing developers who are looking at Rio Communities.
“It’s always good to have a mayor and council that supports economic development,” he said. “You can go to a city that doesn’t want growth, or are not progressive, but we have a good mayor and council who want to see things happen.”