CHURCH ROCK — Sharlene Begay-Platero is the proud new owner of a piece of Nambé ware etched with her name. The reason for her ownership?: She is New Mexico IDEA's newest Developer of the Year.

She found out that she'd won the award Saturday in Albuquerque at the 2007 Governor's Summit on Economic Development.

"We take nominations ... she received numerous nominations and her name came to the top," Margaret McDaniel, president of New Mexico IDEA, a moniker for the New Mexico Industrial Development Executives Association. "She was honored for her work on the reservation; she is so deserving of this."

Begay-Platero summed up her job in a single word: "passionate."

"I am trying to help in the Navajo way — Ké; I am trying to help my relatives get a job," she said.

She explained that her tribe considers people who share either a blood or clan link to be related. Begay-Platero agrees, putting herself in the position of having her work "involve a lot of people."

"It's passionate and it's personal," she said.

Begay-Platero is staff member of the Project Development Department of the Navajo Nation's Division of Economic Development, a position she's held for the past decade and a half. Her primary responsibilities are the recruitment and retention of tenants as well as managing the Nation's eight industrial sites.

She is currently helping Apache County with its business leases, and assisting Navajo Agricultural Products Industry work with a business prospect from Arizona.


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But her work doesn't end with those projects. Also on her plate is helping to find a new tenant for the Fort Defiance building, aiding the Raytheon company solve some information technologies programs with lines supplying its site, and with a business expansion. She is also helping Navajo Arts and Crafts work out a business agreement.

"I have 12 projects that I'm involved with, and I am the coordinator for the Fort Wingate memorandum of understanding team get more than 21,000 acres of land returned to the Navajo Nation," she said.

The land she mentioned was taken by the U.S. Army and used as a munitions storage facility. Begay-Platero's work involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is helping to clean up the site.

"Most of my job is educating companies about who we are as a tribe," she said. "They know about us through our Code Talkers and Monument Valley."

What the companies don't know, she said, is that the Nation offers them a huge, resident population that does not want to move from its homes for employment.

"Durango's companies were having the same problem, and considered starting a transit system so our workers could come home at night," Begay-Platero said. "Clovis and Roswell were talking about the same problem, but that's an eight- to 12-hour bus ride."

The talk did not result in a solution, according to San Juan College Vice President of Student Affairs Dave Eppich, who was involved in the discussion.

Begay-Platero, who's married to John Platero Jr. of Borrego Pass and mother of twins Jennabah and Joshua, 6, believes she is the first Native woman to win the award. She is the only Native person who is active in the NMIDEA association.

Cornelia de Bruin:cdebruin@daily-times.com