2013 started out with a bang, saw a few challenges
The change in direction of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce to become a more advocacy-centric organization has been chronicled many times during 2013. As the year has drawn to a close, it is important to take a look back and review the topics that were tackled.
The year started with a bang as the Chamber saw its efforts come to fruition with the unanimous passage of the expanded informed consent legislation designed to allow Spaceport America to compete on an even playing field with other like entities around the country. Virgin Galactic also benefited from this new legislation as their suppliers will not face over burdensome liability issues.
In support of White Sands Missile Range, the Chamber came out in opposition to the proposed route of the SunZia transmission line. The Chamber feels that this route jeopardizes WSMR’s mission and as a result the safety of our country and the economy of Doña Ana County. Original studies touted the financial benefi t of this project, showing that more than 30,000 jobs would be created. That number has since been reduced to around 3,000 – the vast majority of which are short-term, construction- related positions. This is not a gamble that the Chamber is willing to take. The Chamber has been in favor of protecting the Organ Mountains for many years, but is in opposition to the almost 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal, citing border security, continued grazing for ranchers and water management and flood control as reasons. Protecting the Organs, in a fashion similar to what is in Congressman Steve Pearce’s bill, combined with the land currently designated as Wilderness Study totals almost 300,000 acres.
The Chamber came out in opposition to the proposed minimum wage increase, instead taking the position that the open market should dictate wage rates. Several business owners have discussed how such an increase would impact their businesses – the results range from increasing prices on products and services to laying off workers. Area seniors, who are on fixed incomes, would be hit hardest by such price increases.
As of Friday, Jan. 10, there are nearly 500 jobs available, or planned to be available, in the first quarter of 2014 in Las Cruces that pay more than the proposed hourly rate, all with benefits. Work force development efforts would be a better use of resources in this case.
The Chamber tackled various ordinance changes such as impact fees, including parks, roads and drainage, as well as the alarm ordinance, with varying degrees of positive outcomes.