Jerry Pacheco can hardly contain his enthusiasm as he provides a "windshield tour" of the Santa Teresa Logistics Park just north of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.
"Now it's happening," he says repeatedly. The enthusiasm may have drawn extra energy from Pacheco's passengerthis columnistbeing a fellow Santa Teresa true believer.
"It" has been a long time coming.
The happening starts with one huge industrial project complete just across the fence in Mexico and a bigger project under construction a few miles northwest along Union Pacific's Sunset Route, the roughly 750-mile main line between El Paso and Los Angeles. (More on UP next week.)
Companies large and small; local (from El Paso), national and international; are moving to Santa Teresa or opening new facilities. Pacheco briefly interrupted our tour several times to enter a phone number from a For Sale sign into a pocket size spiral notebook that lives in his truck. Recently a single day saw seven new prospect companies contact Pacheco.
In addition to being possibly the leading cheerleader and advocate for Santa Teresa, Pacheco is executive director of the International Business Accelerator (www.nmiba.com), part of the state's Small Business Development Centers Network.
My long-ago first trip to the Santa Teresa port area was a tour with business types. At one point, the bus stopped. We got out in the middle of nowhere. Our guide pointed south across the brush and said the port of entry is over therethree miles.
Bigger picture events have affected Santa Teresa. There was political incompetence and ignorance in New Mexico; political incompetence in Mexico resulting in devaluations and other distractions; general business cycle fluctuations; major American land owner-developers becoming financially, ummm, stretched; and last, but apparently not significantly disruptive, the Mexican drug wars of the past few years.
An important element today is the Border Industrial Association (nmbia.org), a trade and development organization with more than 50 members, all industrial firms, employing more than 2,000 people, with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the area and much more to come, not even counting the Union Pacific. The association is qualified to get state money, which, Pacheco said via email, is "allocated towards upgrading the water system and expanding the wastewater system to accommodate the tremendous growth that we are experiencing."
The completed industrial plant, the 1.6 million square-foot computer assembly facility from Foxconn of Taiwan, is Mexico's largest. The approximately 7,000 employees, who bus to work from Juarez, make 55,000 Dell computers each day. Construction of a road through the border fence directly to the Foxconn plant is planned. This road will ease congestion at the border crossing for Foxconn and everyone else.
New energy can be expected in Santa Teresa's commercial real estate arena. Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto, Canada, just spent $866 million for 81 percent of the Verde Group and Verde Realty of Houston, long a major player in Santa Teresa. The deal closed in December, said the January 28 report in the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Commercial port of entry traffic is growing nicely. During 2012 at Santa Teresa, 81,339 commercial trucks crossed the border, up 13 percent from 2011 and more than double traffic in 2007. At Columbus, 65 miles west on N.M. 9, which parallels the border, commercial crossings for 2012 were 10,627, an 18 percent increase from 2011.
Some of the commercial traffic at Santa Teresa consists of trucks lining the port's southbound lane every morning to export hundreds of used vehicles to Mexico. Some, no doubt, have traveled NM 136, the Domenici Memorial Highway. Formerly a gem in New Mexico's Santa Teresa presentation, the east/west section is crumbling.
Growth brings challenges.
Harold Morgan has tracked the New Mexico economy for decades. He was editor for 20 years and publisher for four years of Progress, a business newsletter and was the founding editor of the New Mexico Business Journal.