OpEd: Get to know GrowRaton!

GrowRaton! is the “doing business as” or “dba” name for the Greater Raton Economic Development Corporation, incorporated in New Mexico as a non-profit corporation in September, 2010. We are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) non-profit economic development corporation which makes contributions tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. At this time, we are an all-volunteer organization operating independently and depend on contributions from investors and community members as well as grants for our funding.

Like any corporation, we have a Board of Directors which elects the officers for the corporation. Currently, our officers are: Paul Jenkins, president; Rich Kuhns, vice president; Kathy Harris, secretary; David Wentling, treasurer.

Our fiscal year is the calendar year and we hold an annual meeting early each December.

But just what is an “economic development corporation” or EDC?

By definition, it is an organization, usually non-profit, whose mission is to promote economic development in a given geographic area. The GrowRaton! mission statement reads:

GrowRaton! is a catalyst for community and economic development in the Greater Raton area.

We believe that community development (i.e. improving the quality of life in the area) is essential to economic development (i.e. attracting new businesses to the area) and so include both elements in our mission statement. We see our role as that of a catalyst or facilitator, making it possible for community development and economic development to occur.

Our first community development projects have involved providing a more pleasant physical appearance to the downtown business area and the recycling of solid waste materials. The State of New Mexico has granted us funds through its Re-LEAF program, with a matching in-kind contribution from the City of Raton, to plant trees and shrubs where previously there were only concrete sidewalks. For this work, we have relied heavily on the Raton Master Gardeners and other interested volunteers. This Spring, we will begin our third Re-LEAF grant with additional plantings in downtown Raton.

Even before we received our first Re-LEAF grant from the State, we were encouraging the City to establish a recycling program. Our volunteers assisted in writing the grants responsible for the bailer and the skip-loader which are now part of the Recycling Center. Once the bailer became operational, our volunteers served to unload and properly categorize the various types of recyclables coming to the Center. The program has grown from just the first Saturday of each month (9 am to 1pm) to include also the 2nd and 4th Wednesday mornings of each month (9am to 12 noon). In addition, City trucks are now available to pick up from businesses which set aside their cardboard for recycling.

Other community development projects include the work of the Housing Task Force and the new Community Garden. The Housing Task Force was established to assist veterans and low-income individuals with the exterior maintenance of their properties. Services provided thus far include removal of trash and unwanted landscaping materials as well as painting the exterior of homes. In the future, we hope to be able to help with weatherization needs and minor interior repairs. Those who wish to apply for assistance from the Housing Task Force should contact the Raton Housing Authority at (575) 445-8021 for an application. For those who are willing to volunteer on the Housing Task Force, please contact Erika Meadows at (575) 650-8337.

The Community Garden on First Street is the result of a GrowRaton! initiative, the Rotary Club, the Young Marines, and other volunteers who transformed an empty lot into a vibrant and productive Community Garden. We look forward to expanding the garden this spring to accommodate even more raised planter boxes. For more information on participating in the Community Garden, contact Stephanie Jansen at (575) 445-2935 or Randi Whitman at (575) 445-8224.

Note: This is first in a series of monthly columns to be published on the last Thursday of each month. Next month, we will specifically discuss just what economic development means. In the meantime, if you have comments or questions, please email us at GrowRaton@RatonNM.US or call Paul Jenkins in Raton at (575) 445-3130.