Major manufacturer, servicer and retailer of industrial equipment opens 100,000-square-foot facility along U.S. Highway 550 in Bloomfield

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FARMINGTON — Caterpillar dealer Wagner Equipment Co. opened its new 100,000-square-foot facility along U.S. Highway 550 north of downtown Bloomfield earlier this month.

The large-scale manufacturer, servicer and retailer of industrial equipment, opened the facility on a 20-acre portion of the Animas Business Park at 200 Louisiana St. Wagner, headquartered in Aurora, Colo., broke ground on the construction project in 2014.

Today, Wagner is the largest provider of Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar, the iconic heavy industrial manufacturer that produces construction, mining, engine and other heavy industrial equipment in its signature yellow hue worldwide.

The new regional Wagner facility will consolidate and replace the company's heavy equipment and rental operations previously located at 1000 Troy King Road in west Farmington and 905 N.M. Highway 516 in Flora Vista. Those facilities shut down last week, and about 100 employees at both previous San Juan County locations have all moved east to take up new jobs at the new Bloomfield facility.

Randy Randlemon, a manager at the new facility, called the new operations "state of the art."

“We’re excited to deliver the same great parts, service, sales and rental solutions from our new state of the art facility in Bloomfield,” Randlemon said.

Tim Cummins, co-owner of Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities LLC, the Albuquerque-based park developer that owns the park, said three other companies followed Wagner and purchased land within the park, but aside from owning parcels, the tenants — Pyramid Corp., 4Rivers Equipment Company and Precision Fitting and Gauge Co. — have yet to develop their own facilities there.

Cummins said it is all related to declines in the oil and gas industry.

"When oil prices went below $40, all of the interest in our park stopped and has not come back," Cummins said. "When it went down, it went down fast. A couple companies said around February, 'We'll call you when things get feasible.'"

Cummins said the lack of activity is consistent with Rio's experience with its other industrial parks across the state. He cited actions this year by the Federal Reserve to limit banks' lending ability to small and mid-sized businesses as an inhibitor of greater retail growth in New Mexico.

Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein said the city's industrial park was developed with the intent of diversifying the local economy, though that catalyst of promised economic development that area officials have been touting for years has, so far, not shielded Bloomfield from the impacts of the oil and gas industry downturn.

"We've been talking about it awhile, it's just making it happen that is very difficult," Eckstein said. "We've tried to make the process for businesses to open here easier. Working well with private companies has been a focus."

Eckstein said cutting red tape and establishing a business-friendly park with ready-to-go infrastructure are ways in which the city has tried to make progress.

Bloomfield officials have been trying to secure tenants for the industrial park for the past nine years, and Eckstein said the city's private-public partnership with Rio is what made the park possible.

Whether the Wagner opening will attract more business to the park remains to be seen, Eckstein said. Currently facing a nearly $1 million budget shortfall, the city is trying to generate increased revenue and economic growth in Bloomfield and the park was seen, along with a large annexation, as a kind of dual boost that could fill its coffers to overflowing.

And then around Thanksgiving 2014, the price of crude oil began a precipitous drop of more than $100 a barrel to historic lows and has not recovered — and with it. That resulted in shrinking tax revenue for all four area municipalities and the county.

Now the challenge is to attract a company of the caliber of Wagner, Eckstein said.

In the meantime, the city is benefiting in less obvious ways from Wagner and the new industrial park.

Asa Oakes, who handles sales at the new facility and at a Wagner location in nearby Durango, Colo., said Wagner sells a brand of artificial lawn material called HydroTurf that Oakes pitched to Eckstein.

Bloomfield bought about 9,000 square feet of the turf and installed it in medians along Bloomfield Highway.

Oakes said the turf lasts 50 years and could be a boon to cities throughout parched New Mexico in need of affordable and durable water-free landscaping. A gazebo and picnic area at the new facility is carpeted with the turf, Oakes said.

"It was the perfect storm because (Bloomfield was) having water issues already and the city was having to save money for the maintenance," Oakes said. "We sell the turf. ... Hopefully some other cities in the area take notice to what Bloomfield's doing."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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