Driving along the paved streets of the Santa Teresa Border Industrial Park, representatives from Valencia County begin to see the possibilities for their county’s economic development.
A group of Valencia County leaders are in the southern New Mexico town to see the prototype of the proposed industrial park Campbell Farming Corporation wants to build a quarter mile northwest of Belen’s Alexander Airport.
Brian O’Hare, the developer of Campbell Farm Center, drives the van as the delegates ask questions about what the park will be like.
The buildings are uniform in design and size, with non-descript fronts. Discrete signs display the names of the companies that occupy the buildings — Foamex, Acme Mills, Vista, Savane, ADC.
Within the walls of the factories, car seats are being made. Cardboard is being pressed into corrugated dividers. Clothing made in South America is being sorted for distribution.
“When the North American Free Trade Agreement first went into effect, El Paso developers saw a great opportunity for maquiladoras to distribute products which were made in Mexico,” said O’Hare, who developed the Mesa Industrial Park in San Diego, Calif., one of the most successful industrial parks in the Southwest.
“But then they realized maquiladoras are not good economic development for jobs. They realized they needed to get into making items in light industry.
“This park is making products that are distributed throughout the United States or sent over to Mexico to be added to products which are shipped back to the United States,” he said of the Border Industrial Park.
In a two-year period, 18 companies have located in Santa Teresa and generated 1,400 jobs.
Campbell Farming Corpor-ation is banking on similar results with its Valencia County industrial park.
“We expect 30 percent of the businesses to be maquiladoras and 70 percent to be U.S. companies relocating to the Southwest,” O’Hare said. “Companies are wanting to come to the southwest to get close to Mexico to take advantage of NAFTA.” Maquiladoras are U.S.-owned factories operating in Mexico.
As the tour began, Valencia County west mesa resident Joan Artiaga was against the idea of an industrial park coming to her neighborhood.
But as she saw what the park would look like, she changed her mind.
“I’ve done a 180 on this,” Artiaga said. “I’m amazed, intrigued and excited about the possibilities it can bring to Valencia County. It could bring clean, positive, high-paying jobs and planned economic development for the county that won’t damage the environment.”
As a neighbor to the park, she was concerned about the visual impact of the factories. “I expressed my concerns, and Brian agreed to put a landscape buffer along the park’s perimeter, which is next to residential areas,” she said.
Valencia County Commis-sioner Frank Pando came to Santa Teresa to ask the tough questions.
“I wanted to know what these parks looked like. I didn’t just want to listen to concepts,” he said. “We need to change our image in Valencia County. The only way to do it is with something like this. I think it has potential.”
Pando liked the planned development concept instead of the parcel-by-parcel developments.
“One thing that is frightening about the way economic development is happening in Valencia County now is the traditional piecemilling of parks. There doesn’t seem to be a vision of how the county will look in the future,” he said.
Jaime Goldberg, a member of the county’s planning and zoning commission, also liked what he saw.
“The way this park is set up is nice. There are wide paved and guttered streets. The businesses are clean. It’s like the industrial area in Albuquerque along Alameda or Jefferson,” Gold-berg said. “A park like this serves a purpose and can create jobs for the people of Valencia County.”
Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres, also among the visitors, was impressed with the fact that the infrastructure for the park would be in place before Campbell Farms markets the park.
“We have people calling all the time wanting to know what we have available,” Torres said. “We have nothing to show them. We have a few empty buildings but nothing as organized as this.
“An industrial park like this will have everything we need for a business to come in and build and be in operation by 120 days.
“This is a whole different thing from the Rio Grande Industrial Park — one has planning and the other doesn’t. Santa Teresa looks very professional. The buildings look fantastic. They would even look good on Belen’s Main Street.”
One thing Torres said he likes is that O’Hare brings 17 years of industrial park experience to the Campbell Farm Center project.
“Brian has done enough of these that he has learned things and he’s going to apply those things to the Campbell Farm project,” the mayor said.
One such thing is drainage of the industrial sites.
“We pond to area locations here,” O’Hare said of the Santa Teresa park. “We’ve discovered it would be better if each site has its own pond area. It can be incorporated into their landscape, and the run off can be used to water their plants.
As Campbell Farming Corporation goes before the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission to change the zoning of the proposed 1,200 acres, other Valencia County representatives will be touring the Santa Teresa park to see for themselves what Campbell Farming envisions for their county.