If voters agree, Hobbs could be more competitive with Texas towns for big box retailers by July.
On the March 1 municipal election ballot is a single proposition to add retailers and cultural facilities to the city’s existing Economic Development Strategic Plan Ordinance as qualifying entities for receiving public support as defined in New Mexico’s Local Economic Development Act (LEDA).
Local leaders think advantages include more jobs, more revenue for the city and happier residents who would no longer have to travel to Lubbock or Midland/Odessa if some big box stores open up shop in Hobbs.
“That is an item I have been advocating for several years now,” Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb told the News-Sun. “It gives the city the ability to work with retailers, not only people that are not currently part of our retail community, but local businesses that wish to expand or add additional retail operations to their existing business.”
Cobb emphasized the ballot proposal asks for no increase in local taxes.
“We will be able to use funds from our general fund as appropriate to work with people to try to grow our retail base,” the mayor said. “What this does for the city is it helps us with our gross receipts revenues which we use for police protection, fire protection and all those things we do to maintain quality of life and infrastructure.”
Jennifer Grassham, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County, pointed out the tool her organization would get to encourage big box stores to come to Hobbs if the measure passes the election.
“Originally, you could not have retail and cultural facilities as eligible LEDA projects,” Grassham said. “That’s what this does, if passed, is adding the category, not a tax. In general, it’s just a tool that we did not have in recruiting retail, which is our focus.
“Retail, just like other businesses, is interested in incentives. That is something you would see on the Texas side of the border frequently. So if the voters approve Proposition No. 1, we would then have a tool to recruit retail businesses that we would not have otherwise. From an economic development perspective, we’re always interested in creating new jobs.”
The New Mexico Legislature added retail and cultural facilities to the LEDA concept in 2013, but capped it for communities of smaller populations.
During the 2021 Legislative session, Cobb and Clovis Mayor Mike Morris urged legislators to make changes to the LEDA statute to allow cities like Hobbs and Clovis, both reasonably close to Lubbock, to compete with other municipalities like those in Texas.
Approval of the proposal, Cobb said, would give Hobbs the ability to be competitive with those Texas neighbors.
“Many of them are using these types of incentives,” the mayor said.
Details, such as the number of jobs to be created and/or the anticipated amount of revenue to be seen, will be determined later, after the proposal passes.
“It will be based on the amount of gross receipts the entity would generate, so the money we invest we would get back in the form of our sales taxes,” Cobb told the News-Sun. “It also would have parameters related to how many jobs are created, so there are ample protections in place to ensure we get a return on the investments we make.
“Hopefully, whatever we do, it will provide our local citizens more avenues and opportunities for retail shopping and additional cultural activities around the community,” Cobb concluded.
City Clerk Jan Fletcher said while the municipal ballot will vary depending on the district in which a resident lives, all voters residing in the city limits of Hobbs will get to vote yes or no on Proposition No. 1, which reads as follows:
“Without increasing gross receipts taxes, shall the City of Hobbs be allowed to approve retail businesses and cultural facilities as qualifying entities for purposes of furthering or implementing economic development plans and providing public support for projects as defined in the Local Economic Development Act?”
The ballot also will include various offices as follows In ballot order:
Commissioner District 1(two-year term)
• R. Finn Smith
• Declared Write-In Candidate: Donna Everhart
Commissioner District 4 (4-year term)
• Debra Jean Brady
• Joseph D. Calderon
Commissioner District (4-year term)
• Roy Dwayne Penick
Commissioner District 6 (4-year term)
• Donald Ray Gerth
Municipal Judge (four-year term)
• Bobby M. Arther