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EDC of Lea County celebrates 60 years

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EDC of Lea County celebrates 60 years

Jennifer Grassham/EDC president

It was the year the computer mouse, push-button telephone, and cassette tapes arrived on the scene. The US Postal Service announced ZIP codes, The Avengers comic was first published, and a new car company, Lamborghini, was founded and debuted its first prototype 350 GTV automobile.  

1963 was also the year a group of local leaders, Finn Watson, George Haley, Robert Summers, Lynn Kincaid, J.F. Maddox, James Murray Jr., and Jack Daniels set in motion the Industrial Development Corporation of Lea County — which was later renamed the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County.  

Today, the EDC board of directors and its 70+ members are continuing the good work started in January 1963.     

Over the course of 60 years, the EDC has been an integral partner to the development projects of all shapes and sizes in Lea County, such as Urenco, United Airlines, CTECH, Windscape Apartments, Covenant Health, FlexSteel, CORE, Spinnaker, Young’s Homes, Texas Roadhouse, and many more. The EDC’s work is more than project development. 

The EDC also has a long history of legislative advocacy focused on efforts that support additional economic development in Lea County.  

For the past two decades, the EDC has hosted the Evening with Lea County event in Santa Fe during the 60-day legislative session. In January, close to 300 Lea County residents, friends of the community, and New Mexico legislators attended the reception and dinner events at the Eldorado Hotel.  

In addition to touting the great things happening in Lea County — like being the number one oil producing county in the United States — the EDC had the opportunity to recognize outstanding achievement by businesses and individuals in Lea County.  

The “Human Energy” awards are prestigious awards that allow us to express our deep appreciation for superior initiative and effective work in improving the lives of people in Lea County. These individuals and organizations are exceptional role models for all of us in demonstrating ways to significantly improve quality of life and place in Lea County.

This year, the Human Energy award for outstanding achievement by a business went to Nor-Lea Hospital District.   

We may never be able to fully understand how lucky we were in Lea County to have the dedicated staff and administration of Nor-Lea Hospital during the seemingly endless days of the pandemic.  

Nor-Lea’s creative and determined approach to pandemic risk management resulted in many businesses being able to stay open and operating. Today, many of these businesses who relied on the assistance of Nor-Lea are once again thriving.  

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in the Make-A-Wish auction, you know what an incredible experience this can be.  

This year, the Human Energy award for outstanding achievement by a charitable organization went to Project 40:31.  

While Project 40:31 has exactly zero employees, its impact on Lea County, southeastern N.M., and the State of New Mexico is incalculable.  

It takes a special organization to inspire a community to give with such genuine joy, but somehow Project 40:31 has been able to rally the Lea County community around this noble cause year after year.  

If you haven’t yet been a part of this event, mark your calendars now for Sept. 8 and 9 – and don’t forget your Kleenex — or your wallet.

As we began planning for the 2023 Evening with Lea County event, one name came up again and again for the Human Energy award for exceptional public service — David Shaw.  

It is hard to overstate the impact that David has had not just on Lea County, but on the entire healthcare sector in New Mexico.  

As the longest-serving hospital administrator in the State of New Mexico, David has guided the Nor-Lea Hospital District from a small hospital in northern Lea County to being named as one of the top five critical access hospitals in the nation.  

This is no small feat, and yet you would probably never know about this transformational change if David Shaw were the one telling the story.  

David is first and foremost an advocate for his staff and organization, and he would be the first to say that the Nor-Lea’s success is due to a team effort. Lea County is incredibly lucky to have a team captain like David Shaw.  

It’s only fitting to end this column by paying tribute to our beginning.  

In January 1963, a group of local leaders came together to collectively work to expand and diversify the Lea County economy.  

While they are no longer with us, I think they would be pleased to see all the exciting things we have accomplished since they planted these seeds 60 years ago. 

Jennifer Grassham is the president and CEO of the Economic Develpoment Corporation of Lea County.

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