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FARMINGTON — Community leaders, educators and business officials gathered at the San Juan College Enterprise Center today for a press conference announcing a partnership between Four Corners Economic Development (4CED) and the New Mexico Gas Company.

A check for $40,000 was presented by officials from the gas company to new 4CED CEO Warren Unsicker, who took over two weeks ago as head of the organization.

Mary Homan, economic development and community affairs manager for the New Mexico Gas Company, explained that in July, the Nova Scotia-based company Emera Inc. became the gas company’s new parent company.

“Emera believes in supporting the communities that it serves,” Homan said. “This gift that is being shared throughout New Mexico is actually going to areas we don’t even serve, to help improve the economy throughout New Mexico. Today’s award of $40,000 for 4CED will go to help with job creation, business attraction and whatever else the group thinks would help to improve business.”

Homan said it will be up to 4CED to decide how to use the funds, adding the only thing her company asks for is an update next summer about how the money was spent.

“We’re there to help support you and be a good community partner,” she said.

Homan went on to say that the total amount being brought to the table by Emera to help local economies throughout New Mexico is $5 million, which will be disbursed over a five-year period. Funds will be used to aid in job creation, business attraction and other economic development programs.

Clifton Horace, 4CED board chairman, thanked Homan for the grant.

“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” Horace said. “About seven years ago, we knew we were going to have problem. We saw it before the crash hit, and we realized we needed to diversify our economy so that we’re not as dependent on oil and gas and so we’re not on the roller coaster we’ve always been.”

Horace assured Homan that 4CED will spend the $40,000 judiciously and will account for every cent.

Horace said 4CED has so far been successful in finding ways to help save some existing jobs, and has been instrumental in helping prepare employees for success by fostering programs such as the WorkKeys program, which is a skills assessment test that helps employees and employers build career pathways.

Horace said the recent hire of Unsicker as 4CED CEO will take the organization even farther, allowing 4CED to take more of an “offensive” role as opposed to "playing defense,” as it has been doing ever since the crash occurred.

“I feel we’ve been through the worst part,” he said.

Unsicker also expressed appreciation for the grant and said that in the two weeks he’s been in his new position, he has seen much potential for growth, diversification and job possibilities within the community.

“I’m very excited about the groundwork that’s already been laid, and I look forward to finding projects that will take advantage of these funds,” he said.

For more information about 4CED, visit 4cornersed.com.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

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