Opinion: New opportunities, investments will strengthen Farmington’s position as the Four Corners epicenter of commerce

Nate Duckett
Mayor of Farmington
Nate Duckett

The economic landscape in the city of Farmington has undergone a significant transformation over the last 10 years. The energy extractive industries, which have built the foundations of this community, have become dramatically more efficient in their production due to natural gas prices being at their lowest in recent history, innovations in technology and a shift in ownership to investor-owned operators. 

This has resulted in a shift in the workforce and a need to create a new and diversified base industry in the region. The good news is, production is up since the acquisition of the basin assets by highly focused and efficient producers and, as we heard at this year’s San Juan Basin Energy Conference, outside private equity investors view the basin as a viable and profitable place for their capital.

On the coal power side of our economy there is ongoing uncertainty around the future of the San Juan Generating Station. Our efforts in Santa Fe during the legislative session earlier this year have produced some state support for the city’s work with Enchant Energy, formerly Acme LLC, as they evaluate the plant for acquisition and future operation post 2022 with the installation of carbon capture technology.

New Mexico Energy Cabinet Secretary Cottrell Propst stated recently that if the feasibility is proven and SJGS is able to comply with the newly state mandated emissions levels, Enchant Energy could apply for a variance to install the carbon capture technology and continue the operation of this plant and coal mine. As a highly competitive baseload provider of power that is fully environmentally compliant, there is still a market and a future for this plant. 

However, recognizing the community’s almost singular dependence on the success of the energy sector, the city has taken steps to diversify its economy. More time and resources are being dedicated to community transformation and economic diversification than any time in the history of our city. 

The city recently established an economic development department and the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative to help grow businesses, attract new industries and create alluring outdoor amenities. The city’s economic department is set to work on attracting location-neutral workers and businesses in our other key industry sectors including outdoor recreation, agriculture, retirement and medical. I believe we are perfectly positioned to capitalize on these sectors as the largest city in the Four Corners region with ideal climate and a strong retail, business and medical base. 

New Mexico was recently named the top state for retirement in the nation with over 40% moving into the state for retirement. The city’s team and collaborating partners are working to capture retirees’ attention and encourage them to move to Farmington. 

Additionally, local leaders are putting significant resources into creating a “quality of place” that will not only enhance our area for those who live, work, play and stay here, but will also attract future workforces and residents.

These initiatives include projects such as the Downtown Main Street Redevelopment Project, Bisti Bay Aquatic Park, recreational amenities at Lake Farmington, the Animas River Trail expansion, blight removal and film industry investments. 

While the oil and gas industry will forever be a driving component of our economy, we have only begun to realize and invest in new opportunities that will strengthen our position as the epicenter of commerce here in the Four Corners. Thank you for your support as we challenge the process and lead our city into the future.