Last updated on August 16th, 2012 at 12:08 pm[gn_note color=”#ff3333″] The 2012 New Mexico originally ran in the January 2012 edition of The Shelby Report of the Southwest. Due to reader requests we will be posting our Profiles from each edition of The Shelby Report. The profile will be published on theshelbyreport.com one month after it has run in print.[/gn_note]
by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor
New Mexico’s jobs numbers are heading in the right direction, and doing so more quickly than in other states.
The state’s unemployment rate has steadily fallen since reaching its peak at 8.7 percent in November and December 2010.
Mark Snead, an economist and VP of The Federal Reserve Bank of Denver, recently told the Denver Business Journal that New Mexico had a “very rapid turnaround” vs. the national economy, and said the state has “potential” to grow.
In October, the jobless rate was 6.6 percent, and that marked the fifth straight month of job growth vs. year-ago activity.
The state added 5,000 jobs between October 2010 and October 2011, according to the New Mexico Department of Workplace Solutions.
The recession did take a toll. The number of private sector jobs between 2008 and 2009 fell 5.76 percent in New Mexico. The raw numbers are more telling: 50,000 jobs were lost during the recession; 10,000 have come back.
Tourism gained some strength in 2011 and the New Mexico economy remains stronger than many other states. After stalled recovery in late 2010, the state picked up steam in the first three quarters of 2011.
Forbes magazine recently named New Mexico No. 3 for growth prospects in the next five years, and ranked it No. 32 on its list of Best States for Business, up from No. 35 in 2010.
Another bright spot for the state: movies. In 2011, there were 21 major productions in new Mexico, bringing $232 million into the state. As of this writing, Walt Disney Pictures was filming in New Mexico, working on a movie identified as “The Lone Ranger” starring Johnny Depp as Tonto.
Mining has played an important role in the health of the state’s economy. New Mexico’s mining industry gained 1,800 jobs since October a year ago (the most recent figures available).
In San Juan County, those who toil in the oil fields spend their money locally, particularly in grocery stores where they can find the prepared foods they like ready to go.
At Farmers Market, with locations in Bloomfield and Flora Vista in San Juan County, the Pennington family—mom and sons Debbi, Michael, Matt and Grant—makes sure that enchiladas are hot, ready and waiting each morning when workers come by. At 5 a.m., 16 ft. of deli case is packed full of prepared foods.
“There’s times at 9 o’clock I walk into Flora Vista in the morning and there’s a full pan of enchiladas in our deli that’s empty already—because they make homemade enchiladas and homemade lasagna and all these things, and they (the workers) come in the morning and if you’re not there early, it’s gone,” Grant Pennington said in a recent interview with The Shelby Report’s Southwest Regional Manager Gordon Lowry.
“At 5 in the morning, our parking lot’s full and it’s all oil trucks, fracking trucks, crews that support the oil field,” Matt Pennington said. “The oil field’s nice because you have the big companies and you have all the smaller companies that feed off of and provide support for them,” Matt Pennington said. “The last couple of years, we’ve lost a lot of those companies with the economic downturn, but we’re starting hopefully to see it come back.”
The family has watched the ebb and flows of the recession and recovery and knows better than most just how the local economy is doing and what people are looking to buy—and it isn’t always what’s cheapest. Quality matters.
“People really shop, at least a lot of the oil field does, for our meats,” Matt Pennington said. “Our main cuts are never frozen. It’s fresh beef that we cut and prepare here. What makes it so good is we do quality cuts of beef. Everything’s fresh. We have such a following with it, the turnaround on meats is just a matter of hours.”
Grant Pennington told the story of a woman who came in and asked for a specific cut of meat to be ground because, in her words, she didn’t want “any of those extra pieces in my ground beef.”
“I don’t know what she was thinking that people put in their ground beef,” Grant Pennington said. “The slop, I guess? And I said, ‘Well, we don’t do that.’”
The woman wanted proof and so she got a personal tour to see how Farmers Market does it.
“She was just shocked that we’re not putting in, I don’t know what, but odds and ends,” Grant Pennington said.
The quality doesn’t end at the meat counter, and neither does the customer service. If a customer wants it, Farmers Market will get it. The newer store in Flora Vista has about 30 feet of organic and natural offerings, and customers can choose their granola, nuts, seeds and hot cereals from bulk bins.
“We’ll sell them whatever they want,” Debbi Pennington said. “We’ve told them, if you see something that we don’t have, let us know.”
The store also operates a tortilleria, and the hot, fresh tortillas are so tempting that area restaurants want to buy them.
“We’re kind of perfecting everything, and making sure we’re on an even keel before we start (selling them to restaurants),” Matt Pennington said. “We want to be consistent before we really start spreading that out, but it’s definitely something we want to look at … and may start doing in the future.”
When Walmart came to Bloomfield, it worried the family, and there was a dip in sales that first month after it opened.
“But after that, it started coming back and coming back, and in Bloomfield it doesn’t affect us,” Debbi Pennington said. “We do have people from Bloomfield who go to Walmart, of course they do, but we’re still their hometown grocery store.”
Whether it’s trying out a tortilleria or expanding organics or deciding on shoplifting policies, the Pennington family appreciates the fact that they can make decisions quickly.
“Corporate stores can’t react as quickly. They’re too big. They’re too bulky,” Matt Pennington said. “We see this trend (like the fresh tortillas) and we can hit it. If it works we stay with it. If not, we move on.”
A popular California-based Hispanic operator built its second New Mexico store this year. Pro’s Ranch Market opened a new store in Las Cruces on Nov. 9. The new store is located at 320 E. Wyatt Dr. in a shopping plaza the family-owned company bought in 2008. The plaza has been renamed El Paseo Ranch Plaza.
The 45,000-s.f. Pro’s Ranch Markets store that anchors the plaza features an extensive produce department, a bakery and tortilleria as well as a coffee bar and interactive deli and cheese area. The store employs about 300 people.
The other Pro’s Ranch Market is in Albuquerque.
Walmart opened a new 140,000-s.f. store at 5701 Herrera Dr. in Santa Fe Oct. 12. It offers a full line of groceries, including a bakery and deli.
It was the first activity the retailer had in “The Land of Enchantment” since May 2010, when it held “re-grand openings” at remodeled stores.
The Arkansas-based mega-retailer has 33 Supercenter stores in the state, three discount stores and two Neighborhood Market stores.