Unifying efforts

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By Optic Editorial Board

Movers and shakers in Las Vegas and San Miguel County have known for years that one of the biggest obstacles to progress has been the community’s divisions. Las Vegas is known for pulling itself apart rather than putting itself together for a common purpose.

A couple of years ago, a report spelled this problem out on no uncertain terms. The New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research report, commonly known as the BBER report, made it painfully clear that if we didn’t start working together, we’d fall apart. Again, it came as no surprise to the many who have tried and failed to unite local interests, but the report was a wake-up call anyway — and became the impetus for a three-day economic sustainability summit held last year. The summit spawned the San Miguel County Economic Development Leadership Collaborative, which was formed to put some structure behind the need for community unity.

The collaborative consists of the city and county governments, Highlands University and Luna Community College and some other progressive local entities. The focus is on economic development, while its application is intended to be specific and practical.

County Manager Les Montoya, a key leader in getting the collaborative off the ground, says the group hopes to serve as a clearinghouse for local requests made for state and federal funding. Details to the process are still being hammered out but organizers envision the various local and area agencies submitting their funding interests to the collaborative, which would then decide on what projects to support. The idea is to have a process in place that encourages communication and cooperation between the agencies, resulting in a more unified approach to community needs.

The collaborative is smart to focus on funding, because that’s where the rub is. Past efforts to unify the community often turned into squabbles over who gets and controls the money. If the collaborative can create a process that the various organizations can live with — or a process that everyone will have to live with — the community will be that much closer to unifying its best efforts.

And if such a process fails to bring the interests together, then we’ll simply remain where we are — a self-defeating, divided community.

Community divisions have ruled the day for far too long. This collaborative needs to avoid the pitfalls of politics and personal animosities as it attempts to work toward a greater good. We hope this latest effort to unify the community succeeds.