Discover the Potential of Four Corners, NM
13 Feb 2023
The Four Corners Region of New Mexico possesses significant potential in numerous industry sectors. Creating immediate and longer-term strategies to build and diversify the area’s economy is within the charter of Four Corners Economic Development (4CED).
“The Four Corners Region has tremendous potential due to an excellent base to build on, including historical knowledge in the energy industry with a large and talented workforce pool,” said Diane Lupke, president of Diane Lupke & Associates, Inc. “It will take real work, but there is real opportunity.”
Diane Lupke & Associates, Inc. recently performed a Competitive Asset Assessment to allow 4CED and regional leaders to build economic development momentum through defensible decisions and asset identification that add value to the region to set the community apart and attract businesses and talented individuals.
Helping Shape Communities
Diane Lupke & Associates, Inc. is an economic development consultancy that assists communities facing major restructuring of their regional economies due to rapid technological change, natural disasters or market preferences. Lupke Consultants help communities access better data, conduct rigorous analysis, engage in strategic thinking and actively collaborate in taking action on a more secure path.
“Many communities are facing significant economic transitions because they have deep experience in a single industry spanning needing little activity to spur economic development, but site selectors, industry or potential residents commonly avoid them,” said Lupke. “But the Four Corners Region’s strength in carbon extraction experience offers significant opportunities for future economic development.”
Four Corners Opportunities
The region has several unique strengths that distinguish it from other areas. The area has a vast supply of inexpensive natural resources, such as natural gas and water. With a significant depth of technical experience and infrastructure in the carbon energy industry, economic intelligence is exceptionally high, with many patents initiated in San Juan County, covering diverse platforms. San Juan College, the area’s workforce training institution of record, utilizes that deep talent resource to develop the skills of San Juan County’s working population, which is more than double of nearby counties. Area housing prices are nationally and regionally attractive to retirees and remote workers.
The Competitive Asset Assessment indicates the industries with the most substantial business opportunities to grow in or relocate to San Juan County and the Four Corners region are Agriculture, Manufacturing, Energy, Outdoor Recreation, Remote Worker Attraction and Healthcare.
San Juan County has a robust historical agriculture base, with 6,000 small farms and ranches in the region, more than any other New Mexico county. Nearly half are in the Navajo Nation, in addition to the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry. Potential lies in the breadth of activity and the ability to broadly ramp up regional wealth by investing in families with small operations.
San Juan College offers the possibility of developing a Food Hub, virtual incubator, or shared kitchen experience. Other opportunities build on inherent smart farming and irrigation experience to include value-added products like pelletized alfalfa, potato dehydration, seed oils seeds, boutique food processors, specialized meat packing/processing and more.
Current manufacturing in San Juan County is related to energy production, equipment and the defense industry. An increasingly available labor shed is well suited for heavy industrial manufacturing work. Industries that utilize natural gas for petrochemicals, Hydrogen, urea or polypropylene production would benefit from locating to the region.
Boutique outdoor recreation equipment manufacturers or independent equipment artisans would also benefit from the combination of available sites, cost-effective resources and knowledgeable talent. Manufacturers want to locate in the states of the Four Corners region but are priced out of markets in Colorado and Utah.
San Juan County has a solid historical base in natural resource energy production. The well-trained, productive, experienced talent pool will transfer nicely to developing solar, wind, carbon capture, and hydrogen technologies.
The cost and availability of natural gas and electricity benefit businesses, as does the vocational training in cutting-edge skills perfected by San Juan College. Companies seeking to engage in carbon sequestration, federal Hydrogen projects and green energy programs will find many advantages in the Four Corners region.
Opportunities for tourism and outdoor recreation - and the economic activity they bring - exist year-round in San Juan County. San Juan County has abundant cultural sites and parks, with immediate opportunities for tourism capture due to the region’s amenities, such as the San Juan River, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Cultural Historical Park and more.
Many visitors choose to lodge and dine elsewhere, so there is room in the market for lodging, recreation business and services to flourish by retaining current tourists and residents. Public involvement, like the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative and investment in historic downtowns, showcases those possibilities.
McKinsey & Company reported in June 2022 that 35% of current U.S. job holders could work remotely full-time. San Juan County has numerous positive assets to draw these remote workers. A favorable cost of living, low housing costs, a mild year-round climate and new downtown housing options allow location-neutral workers to network and co-work in the area. Farmington’s MakeMyMove has the potential to draw more remote workers.
Healthcare is a prominent San Juan County employer and a definitive growth industry. The possibility exists to capture a more significant share of regional healthcare with anchor strategies involving elder care, joint ventures with the Navajo Nation, chronic illness research or diabetes treatment. The San Juan Regional Medical Center is a small hospital, but it is a destination for the region.
Four Corners Potential
Following the multiple strategies of the Competitive Asset Assessment to value existing businesses, attract small and large companies and nurture entrepreneurs will give the region a competitive edge and build sustainable growth.
“There is a deep talent pool in the Four Corners Region with generations in the same industry,” said Lupke. “Pairing this talent with area advantages and strategic economic development gives the region an exciting prospect for the future.”