Las Cruces, New Mexico
Best for business
Business View interviews Francisco Pallares, Las Cruces, New Mexico Deputy Director of Economic Development, for our focus on Growth in U.S. Cities
The City of Las Cruces, New Mexico is an absolute mecca of opportunity on so many levels. Particularly, with the growth of aerospace companies and events in the city, Las Cruces has become a “place for space” tourism destination. Las Cruces has a long history of space and innovation and recent activities have brought that back to light. The designation of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, encompassing nearly 500,000 acres of varied terrain, has made Las Cruces a desired outdoor recreation destination, and business development in this area has assisted in catering to the needs of the outdoor enthusiast.
Francisco Pallares, Las Cruces Deputy Director of Economic Development, reports, “In the last year, one of the big changes we’ve had is that we finally finished the master plan update for our West Mesa Industrial Park. Not only that, but we rebranded it to Las Cruces Innovation and Industrial Park. We wanted a name that was unique to Las Cruces and more reflective of the direction we are going.”
The master plan for Las Cruces Innovation and Industrial Park was updated by creating a new overlay zone. The park is adjacent to Interstate-10 and the Las Cruces International Airport within an Opportunity Zone, with some parcels available for potential foreign trade development. Three major industries have been identified that would play a crucial role for the development of the park. First, Las Cruces is strategically located to be a center piece in the connection of the supply chain for the aerospace industry, and the Las Cruces Innovation and Industrial Park update reflects that. Its close access to Interstate-10 and proximity to Mexico, which is just 40 miles south, is ideal for supply chain elements destined to go 80 miles north to Spaceport America.
Pallares explains, “North of Interstate-10, which is just south of the airport, are multiple large lots of land. The city owns about 300 acres in the industrial park that is readily available with utilities onsite; the access to the Interstate-10 is quite nice. Those parcels of land have been identified for development in the aerospace industry. Spaceport America is just about 80 miles north of Las Cruces and we’re the closest big city to it. There have been several recent developments coming from Spaceport America, besides the launching of Virgin Galactic with Richard Branson. California-based SpinLaunch – a spaceflight technology development company working on mass accelerator technology to move payloads to space – has also built a facility at Spaceport.”
Value-added agriculture is the focus for the portion of the park that is south of Interstate-10. According to Pallares, “Las Cruces has a wealth of agriculture industry know-how. We have a long tradition for pecan farming and green chile farming, and we have the knowledge and capacity to produce those products. A lot of new production in the agriculture industry can go into the Las Cruces Innovation and Industrial Park. In fact, there is already some production in the value-added industry there, as well as several inquiries for potential development in that field.” A prime example, The Saputo cheese factory just doubled their amount of production at the industrial park and are about to hire 150 more employees.
Another thing the city is excited about is the upcoming opportunities in the cannabis industry. Starting on April 1, 2022, recreational cannabis retail sales and consumption for individuals 21 years and over is going to be allowed in New Mexico. Pallares acknowledges, “Because of our close proximity to Texas, an agricultural product such as cannabis could potentially have some value-added options in Las Cruces for this portion of the export side. We have had some firms inquire about parcels of land south of the park that would be available for that.”
The third targeted industry would be focused in the southwest third of the industrial park, which is designated for high-end manufacturing, and where many large manufacturers are currently located. “We have lots of land available there and are receiving inquiries in that regard,” boasts Pallares. “It is all exciting! Besides this, our airport, which is just north of the industrial park, is planning to bring in potential air passenger service to Las Cruces. So we’re revamping the airport, revamping the industrial park, looking to do infrastructure improvements at the park – repaving some streets, changing entry and wayfinding signs.”
A robust marketing plan is being developed for the industrial park, as well as getting it listed as a Certified Site that has done all the due diligence to be considered for that designation. Once the certification is approved, the Las Cruces Innovation and Industrial Park could be listed on the Certified Sites website, where they would make information available to industries that want to relocate. Pallares admits, “I’m feeling very confident about the park. It’s moving forward, lots of industry interest, lots of new business potential, and lots of availability of land. We have that capacity to take on further production.”
In other news, the City of Las Cruces is partnering with the Arrowhead Center to do the Las Cruces BizSprint, which happened as a response to COVID-19 pandemic when businesses were in dire need of assistance. The Las Cruces BizSprint offers a business accelerator that incorporates a tailored curriculum geared to address transitioning businesses to online spaces and focus on recovery from COVID-19. Participating businesses can explore potential new markets through a customer discovery process and access a network of true experts in a variety of fields for free. Pallares notes, “They gain a whole team of consultants, one-on-one sessions, and connections to industry. We are very happy to have our partnership with NMSU’s Arrowhead Center.”
As for residential development, the Housing and Neighborhood Services section of the Economic Development Department has completed construction of a 40-unit permanent supportive housing complex, known as “Desert Hope” – for people experiencing homelessness. Phase 2 and 3 of the Desert Hope complex are planned for the future. Housing and Neighborhood Services is currently working on the design of a multi-family affordable housing project called “Paseos Verdes” with the intention of adding 200-300 units targeting households earning up to 60% Area Median Income. Paseos Verdes will incorporate a community center and green space sustainability practices for its residents. Additionally in the near future, there will be 19 single-family affordable housing units constructed in the Skylark subdivision. The city will also partner with Tierra del Sol in the Sierra Summary subdivision for 32 units of mixed affordable housing types that will start construction in the next two years.
On the ‘green’ front, Pallares reports, “Las Cruces is in discussions to do solar farm infrastructure in the Las Cruces Innovation and Industrial Park, which would increase the grid reliability and promote solar photovoltaic use, making it more attractive for industries with intensive electricity use. We are also working towards providing options for a circular economy, an electrification-ready park, and sustainability incentives for companies working towards the goals of the City’s Climate Action Plan.”
More good news! The central business district is thriving – thanks to the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership and its close working relationship with the city, growth in the retail and restaurant industry is creating a true sense of Destination Downtown. The city is now conducting a housing feasibility study to explore the construction of more residential units in the core. They are also investing in the revitalization of the historic Amador Hotel (built circa 1850s) – bringing its historic nature and presence to the Downtown. In addition, nearby Campo Street is being renovated to provide connections from Downtown to the nearby Mesquite Historic District.
Looking to the future, Pallares shares, “We are excited for all the development in Las Cruces. We have seen an increased number of residential and commercial developments arise in the recovery phase after the pandemic, as well as new businesses and inquiries in our industrial park, airport, affordable housing, and Downtown. We are ready to do business and make Las Cruces the best place for business in New Mexico. We have a thriving workforce, proximity to Spaceport America, and to manufacturing in Mexico. We are strategically located to make this a strong economy and we are working to make it happen!”
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AT A GLANCE
Las Cruces, New Mexico
What: A business-friendly city; population 102,000
Where: Dona Ana County, southern New Mexico
Arrowhead Center – arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu
Arrowhead Center is New Mexico State University’s economic development engine, providing business development and innovation services for NMSU and communities throughout the wider region. Arrowhead works with researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds, specializing in technology commercialization, community-specific programming, and services for populations traditionally underrepresented in entrepreneurship.