U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Valencia County Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Inflation Reduction Act’s action to combat the climate crisis and unleash a clean energy and manufacturing boom.
The president’s visit happened after the News-Bulletin print deadline Wednesday morning. Visit news-bulletin.com to read about his remarks while in Valencia County.
Biden traveled to New Mexico and made his way to the Arcosa Wind Towers facility in the Rio Grande Industrial Park south of Rio Communities.
Earlier this year, Arcosa Wind Towers announced it would be moving into and will be manufacturing at the old Keter Facility.
Arcosa has received new orders for wind towers totaling $750 million, with the majority of those for projects in New Mexico and the Southwest.
The company expects to have an annual New Mexico payroll of $12.5 million and the project is estimated to have an economic impact of $314 million over the next 10 years. Arcosa plans to invest $55 to $60 million in purchasing the property, modify the existing plant and procure equipment.
Production at the facility is expected to begin in mid-2024, with current orders and backlog providing production through 2028.
Rio Communities Mayor Joshua Ramsell said the city is elated the president of the United States is visiting Valencia County.
“We’re very excited to have a presidential visit to our community,” Ramsell said. “This shows the importance of economic investments made by companies like Arcosa, which is a direct investment in this community and the people.
“We look forward to seeing Arcosa as a part of this community for years to come. The Rio Grande Industrial Park will continue to grow with investments made by companies for the future of our community and country.”
The Belen City Council unanimously approved a resolution spelling out its intent of issuing taxable industrial revenue bonds not to exceed $65 million for Arcosa. The councilors also unanimously approved an ordinance approving the Arcosa Wind Towers, Inc., proposal for economic development project under the Local Economic Development Act. That agreement is between the company, the city and the state.
Belen Mayor Robert Noblin said when he learned on Friday the Democratic president would be visiting Valencia County and was invited to hear him speak, he was thrilled to be able to welcome “the most powerful person in the world to Belen.”
“I was surprised when I received the email, and I wanted to know a little more about why he was visiting,” Noblin said. “With the clean energy projects the council has worked on during the last couple of years — the Sky Ranch Solar project and what’s happening with Arcosa — it’s a benefit to our city for decades to come.”
Noblin said those types of projects fall in line with Biden’s views on climate change and clean energy.
“The fact that these two large projects are happening in the small town of Belen is, I hope, admirable to him as president,” the mayor said.
Noblin isn’t sure how the White House knew about the projects in the Hub City, but speculates Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office may have passed along the information.
“It’s exciting and, at a time when politics is so divided, I expect the welcome that he gets from the citizens of Belen to be professional because whether we agree or disagree on a lot of issues, the office of the president does command respect,” Noblin said. “This is a historic and exciting time for Belen and Valencia County.”
Summer Ludwig, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Valencia County, said she was also exited to hear that the 46th president of the United States was coming to Valencia County.
“I think it’s so exciting to have a president who sees the importance of coming to places … where there are hidden investments of infrastructure and manufacturing, and Belen is a perfect place for that,” Ludwig said. “I know he’s been traveling to several places that are benefiting from the bipartisan infrastructure bill — which Belen will be getting millions from that.”
Ludwig says the historic visit shows a lot about the president’s character to visit a place where he’s not going to get “a lot of support or accolades.”
In the past couple of elections, it’s clear that Valencia County has turned “red,” meaning the majority of partisan elections have been won by Republican candidates.
In the 2020 general election, Valencia County voters cast 14,263 votes for Biden, while former president Donald J. Trump received 17,364 votes.
“It’s a very red county, and I’ve already seen online people complaining that he’s coming, but I would just encourage people to really look at what’s happening,” Ludwig said. “Politically speaking, the investments that his administration and Congress is making is really going to impact everybody in Valencia County — Republicans and Democrats. This is a chance for us to come together and support something positive.”
Biden’s visit on Wednesday is the first time a sitting president has visited Valencia County.
While a presidential candidate, George W. Bush visited Bosque Farms Elementary on Oct. 30, 2000. About a week later, he was voted in as the 43rd president of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spent several hours in Belen and Los Lunas on Thursday, March 10, 1938. Traveling an overnight train, the First Lady arrived in Belen at 7:35 a.m. While waiting for her scheduled car ride to Albuquerque, Mrs. Roosevelt and her secretary, Malvina Scheider, sat at Belen’s Harvey House’s lunch counter, where they enjoyed coffee, ate rolls and chatted with the Harvey Girls on duty.
According to a La Historia del Rio Abajo article in the News-Bulletin written by local historian Richard Melzer, when their car arrived, the First Lady and her party headed north through Valencia County. Mrs. Roosevelt described that trip in her daily column, “My Day,” which she wrote for hundreds of newspapers, including the Albuquerque Tribune.
In the March 17, 1938, edition of the Belen News, it was reported a few “Los Chavez pupils who are taking music under Mrs. Mimms, music supervisor in Valencia County, entertained Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt at Los Lunas.”
The newspaper, which preceded the Valencia County News-Bulletin, reported they performed several songs, including “America,” “El Rancho Grande,” “La Cucaracha,” “Merry Go Round Broke Down” and “Polly Wolly Doodle.”
The newspaper reported Mrs. Roosevelt “… came to Los Lunas for the purpose of visiting the Vocational School. She was much pleased with the sport program prepared especially for her.”
After viewing the Manzano and Sandia mountains, she wrote that shadows cast by the “marvelous” mountains “thrilled” her. Mrs. Roosevelt also mentioned that she traveled through Isleta, “which interested me very much” because she had never seen a pueblo before.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.