Is local EDC alive and well?

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas’ main economic development organization is going through a rough patch, some officials say.

The Las Vegas-San Miguel Economic Development Corporation recently lost its last employee, and a county official says the group doesn’t have the money to operate.

But Matt Martinez, EDC’s president, said nothing is falling through the cracks. He said the EDC and the Las Vegas-San Miguel Chamber of Commerce are working to consolidate.

For more than a decade, the EDC has worked to recruit new companies to town and help existing businesses. It operates with donations from members as well as the city of Las Vegas and San Miguel County.

Roberto Rios, the group’s last permanent executive director, announced in August that he would be resigning for personal reasons.

His assistant, Evelyn Aragon, took the reins on an interim basis, but she left the organization two weeks ago, Martinez said. The group has no other employees.

During her time at the helm, the group moved into the chamber’s office on Sixth Street.

The EDC doesn’t have its new address on its website and still lists Sharon Vander Meer as its executive director. She left a year and a half ago.

Martinez said the executive committees of the EDC and the chamber, which he also heads as president, have been working together on the consolidation.

“That’s what the city wants us to do. It’s not easy putting the two boards together. A lot of issues need to be resolved,” he said. “I want to get this done as soon as possible. In this economy, you have to consolidate resources.”

In a press release, Martinez said EDC is alive and well, saying rumors to the contrary are highly exaggerated.

“We are in a state of transition in consolidating the offices of the EDC and the Chamber of Commerce to better focus our business support and promotion efforts for more efficiency and effectiveness,” Martinez said in the statement.

H said the chamber and the EDC plan to seek input from the community into the draft organization plan.

“We want an effective plan and want to get it right the first time. We want to gain the full support of the business community,” Martinez said in the release.

County Manager Les Montoya said EDC is not very active.
“I don’t think they have the financial wherewithal to function,” he said.

He said that a few months ago, the county was ready to enter an agreement with EDC for the wood industrial park north of town but that the county decided to hold off.

“We found out there were bills that weren’t paid,”  the manager said. “The County Commission said, ‘Let’s not go there.’”

Montoya said the county wanted to refrain from entering an agreement with EDC until it felt better about the group’s purpose and activity.

Montoya said the county picked up the effort to get a lease agreement for Extreme Aviation to set up shop at the wood industrial park. He said he thought EDC could handle that job but that the organization owed money to the attorney drafting the agreement.

Martinez said EDC is current in its payments to its attorney but does owe the lawyer some money. He said the county would have handled the agreement with Extreme Aviation anyway.
Elmer Martinez, the city’s community development director, said the city gave its quarterly $13,000 payment to EDC in September. At that time, he said the group was meeting the requirements of its contract.
He said the group was due to provide another report on its progress at the end of the current quarter on Dec. 31.
Elmer Martinez wouldn’t comment on the contention that the city wanted the EDC and the chamber to consolidate, other than to say that Matt Martinez may have spoken to someone else in the city government.
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City Councilwoman Diane Moore, the city’s representative on EDC’s board of directors, said she hadn’t received any information on EDC’s status.

“We haven’t met. I have had concerns since Roberto left. I sent an e-mail to all of the members and to the executive board. I asked, ‘When are we going to meet?’ I never got a response from the board,” she said.

County Commission Chairman David Salazar, the county’s representative, said the board hasn’t met since Rios was executive director. But he said he understood that the executive committee, a small group of board members, had been meeting.
“Nothing is really happening,” he said.

Wayne Sonchar, a longtime board member, said he hadn’t been active as of late. He said he didn’t know the status of the organization.