LOS LUNAS — Kristen Gamboa, who became senior economic developer for the village of Los Lunas following the retirement of Ralph Mims, has large plans to assist in general growth of the village as pandemic-related restrictions begin to lift across the state.
“You’re basically a marketer, real estate agent, salesperson,” Gamboa said about her new position. “You also have to understand some capacity of finance because you’re dealing with incentives that either come from the local level or the state level.”
One of the ways that Gamboa plans to continue to grow the local economy is through partnerships with nearby communities, such as Belen, Rio Communities and even as far south as Socorro, to create an economic ecosystem.
“Basically, we all roam around this area,” Gamboa said. “We shop, live, eat back and forth between our communities and it’s ridiculous to think that we work in silos and that we shouldn’t share what we have.
“If a project comes in, something that we don’t have in Los Lunas, we’re not just going to shut them out.”
After stepping into the position in January, Gamboa began to take on the many hats that come with the position. She’s putting a special focus on social media — a COVID-friendly way to support local businesses, especially mom-and-pop shops.
“They are the ones that have suffered the most through the pandemic, so my thought was when I came on board was, ‘Well, everyone is on social media; I guess this is the best I can do,” she said.
As pandemic-related restrictions begin to ease, Gamboa said she looks forward to being able to advocate for Los Lunas businesses through physical and in-person promotions.
She also looks forward to bringing C-suite executives and site consultants to tour the village’s industrial parks, including the one that houses the Facebook development.
Gamboa added that the Facebook deal gives her a lot of hope to locate larger companies to the village and continue the corporate growth of the community, and aid in the shift from an agricultural-focused economy to one with a more industrial focus.
Gamboa said a long-term goal of hers within the position is to tell the economic story of Los Lunas through metrics and statistics to use as a marketing tool to increase development in the village. The story — although she doesn’t yet know how it will look in its final form — will show the industries.
“I want us to be able to tell our story of growth, entrepreneurship and existing opportunities,” Gamboa said. “Los Lunas, right now, is the second-largest growing community in New Mexico.”
She added the three industrial parks located in the village continue to have a large interest from outside businesses and that Los Lunas is in an ideal location given its proximity to Interstate 25 and easy access to Interstate 40.
Before finding her place pursuing a career in economic development, Gamboa said it was a long road for her to get there.
She grew up near the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, before heading to Albuquerque to attend The University of New Mexico. She graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and international management.
After spending time working in a retail leadership position and another doing community organizing, she said she still didn’t quite know where her life path would take her.
“The corporate world and the nonprofit world are just two totally different beasts, and I wasn’t happy in either one,” Gamboa said. “So I thought I’m here trying to save the world. I’m exhausted all the time. My phone is just always non-stop ringing, but I’m not happy.”
She then encountered a job opening with the New Mexico Partnership, an economic development position for the state, which really was a mix of everything she enjoyed from both the corporate and nonprofit sectors.
She said immediately after meeting Mims through her work with the partnership, she knew his position was a job she could see herself thriving in and began to lightheartedly inquire about his possible retirement.
While she didn’t think the day would ever come, she said, she received a call early one morning from Mims informing Gamboa about his plans to retire and to apply to the job.
“I was so happy because this was my community, my neighborhood,” she said. “This is what I wanted. I didn’t want to be traveling and I knew that’s what that position was with the New Mexico partnership …
“That’s why I wanted this position because it could help me find places that I could highlight, and share and expose and get a greater audience for — not just for the pandemic.”
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.