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Mayor Hull discusses the economic state of Rio Rancho

Economic growth continues in the cities of Sandoval County, as the mayors of Rio Rancho and Bernalillo noted during a presentation last week.

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull and Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres each gave a presentation during Friday’s State of the Cities luncheon in Sandoval County. The event was held at the Santa Ana Star Center, and 150 people attended.

Torres said Bernalillo has seen economic growth in the past few years, acquiring 40 new business licenses in the past 18 months. A new dentistry office, new retail stores and fast-food restaurants were on the list of new businesses.

The Mountain West Brew Fest, held in Bernalillo earlier this month, was a large success for the town, Torres said. The beer festival replaced the annual New Mexico Wine Festival. With over 50 breweries involved, the beer festival was a hit for attendees and vendors.

“The bottom line is, that’s economic development,” he said.

No arrests were made during the weekend festival, he said, alleviating any worries the town might have had about attracting a younger crowd at the new event.

Hull said a similar growth in fast food and retail was occurring in Rio Rancho, adding that the construction of the city’s first Chick-Fil-A was a good sign.

“(Fast-food restaurants) have some of the most stringent requirements to joining a community,” he said. “When you see some of these popping up, it means the community can support this kind economic development, this kind of business, and can attract the next phase of investors that comes in.”

Rio Rancho gained 1,720 jobs in the last year, Hull said, with companies Alliance Data, Bank of America, Convergys and S&P Data each announcing or adding at least 200 positions. Hull said the official count of 1,720 jobs did not take into account a number of other new businesses in the city, including the new 7-Eleven that opened on Unser Boulevard across from Presbyterian Rust Medical Center.

Housing has grown in Rio Rancho and Bernalillo, with Torres citing his town’s first-ever assisted-living center opening in October and Hull pointing toward the recent resurgence of development in the Mariposa subdivision.

Also at the luncheon, the Public Service Company of New Mexico recognized companies that won a PNM Efficiency Award.

Club Rio Rancho was honored for electrical efficiency for a small business, AutoZone was recognized as the electrically efficient large business, the New Mexico Department of Military Affairs was the non-profit spotlighted and Bernalillo Methodist Church was honored for most kilowatts saved.

FROM ANTONIO SANCHEZ | OBSERVER STAFF WRITER