Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Pegasus Syndrome

Dona Ana Environmentalism
The Pegasus Syndrome
Train Wreck!
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Pegasus City, a futuristic laboratory in the form of an American city, will test next generation innovations and technologies. It will cost $1B to build. It will provide 350 full time jobs and it will create 3200 indirect jobs. The decision came down to choose one of two very different New Mexico cities, Las Cruces or Hobbs, for the project. The rest is now history …
The headline in the Las Cruces SunNews read “Pegasus chooses Hobbs for $1B mock city”. The mayor of Las Cruces, Ken Miyagishima, was quoted as saying, “In the end, I was told it was a business decision.”
            Mr. Mayor, the decision was indeed … a business decision.
            The basics
            In another article, the president of New Mexico State University (NMSU), Barbara Couture, was featured. The theme was the dilemma the university faces in its athletic conference alignment problems. In particular, only one school, the University of Idaho, stands steadfast in its commitment to remain aligned with NMSU in football play.
            President Couture’s answers were necessarily positive. Reading between the lines, however, is the fact the university and the region compete for state funding, taxpayer money, for all endeavors. That includes trying to compete with the bigger boys on the block. As long as that situation exists, NMSU may seek entrance to a bigger game, but it will be from back of the line.
            Hobbs operates under a different model. Their approach can be witnessed in those lush oases sister destinations, Midland, Odessa, and Lubbock. Oh, yes, the oil revenues may be important, but isn’t that wonderful?
            Something much bigger is at play than just oil. It is a world that opts for the pursuit of life not on the basis of trolling for revenues in state houses and Washington, but on the basis of private enterprise, personal risk, and trust in the human spirit.
            Too much of New Mexico has no understanding of that alternative. Hobbs does.
Should we start with comparisons? Should we array the natural wonders of Lea County with the natural wonders of Dona Ana County, shall we match numbers of flights from Houston daily to Hobbs and Las Cruces, or shall we match the daily occupancy of motels demanded by service contractors?
            The truth is there isn’t a natural resource advantage other than oil that exists between the towns. Valid arguments can be made that the southern Rio Grande region exceeds all aspects except oil. Transportation advantages, surface water resources, relative costs of labor, tourism preferences, and most outdoor recreational pursuits accrue to Las Cruces.
            When recruiting a kid to play collegiate ball in the greater area who has the advantage? On face value, Las Cruces should, but there is no substance in that sale.
Texas Tech and its cousins don’t need to seek the allegiance of the likes of Idaho. In fact, if there are threats of withdrawing tax moneys, odds are those Permian Basin Regents would suggest government keep its addictive green substance of abuse, and … still field teams that take national powers to the woodshed!
The comparisons are complicated and simplistic, but the prevailing leadership in Las Cruces seems to have no allegiance to such independence of thoughts and deeds. The outcome does have implications, and … they are profound.
Pegasus will be interesting to watch as they begin their future with Hobbs and that region. Will they succeed? The answer may be seen in their past successes. They were one of the pioneering forces in unmanned flight technology. It is real … as is Pegasus.
Robert Brumley, CEO of the Center of Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE - Pegasus Globlal Holdings), offers a glimpse of the personality of the company. With ties to conservative politics, Mr. Brumley once worked for one of two cowboys he claims to have known personally.
Malcolm Baldrige, President Reagan’s Secretary of Commerce, was Bob’s boss in Washington. It was “Mac” who, on a whim, diverted to a weekend roping while he was on a government business trip to California. He died when the horse he was riding fell over backwards and drove a saddle horn into his chest. It was a tragic accident, but Mac, laying there in that arena, took full responsibility.
It was Mac who instilled in Bob there are things that are worth fighting for and individual human responsibility is one of the most important. That factor played into the Hobbs decision.
Like Mac, his approach is to address only the positives. “Ultimately, we determined Hobbs and Lea County was the best fit for CITE based on the available land, infrastructure and breadth of community support that is required for this type of project,” Mr. Brumley’s press release indicated. He could say more, but his allegiance and priority is his project … not politics.
The Dona Ana aftermath
The Dona Ana chapter of the Pegasus project can only be described as a train wreck. The loss of a $1B project cannot be explained away regardless of the words. The fact is Dona Ana County is running the risk of signaling it is a wasteland of business opportunity. That image is not becoming.
The current problem is the relentless attempt to designate National Monument, or Wilderness, or National Conservation Area, or Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, or any other creative federal restrictive measures on the landscape, but the end game is the reduction of historical land uses driven by the environmental agenda. The Pegasus failure highlighted the fact there is no measure that can isolate such liberal leanings from the greater economic engine that drives the community.
For six years, the county has been the testing ground to escalate the political measures to accomplish such ends. If there is blame it must start with Congressional representation that did not do what was best for the greater community rather than what their polarized constituency demanded, but … congressional representation is not the only complicity.
Every local governing body with progressive dominance has been party to the effort. The mayor, the city council, the Dona Ana County Commission, and current and past state representatives have direct and indirect ties to the environmental movement. In fact, every voter should remember that only one state representative, Hatch’s Andy Nunez, stepped up to demand a bigger debate to resolve the environmental land grab issue.
New Mexico agency directorships are not exempt from the debacle, either. In particular, State Land Office directorships have allowed the matter of state trust lands within the footprints of the various proposals to lapse in limbo.
In the recent proposal there are at least 80 sections of trust lands that will become landlocked if the measure is successful. With tight budgets, those lands are a matter of fiduciary responsibility not political philosophy.
Taxpayers should expect and receive aggressive agency action in the protection of trust land values in federal land schemes before they are orchestrated … not after the fact. It is not acceptable to defer to the future the disposition of lands in such immense federal actions.
Pegasus is the ultimate perfect storm example. The Hobbs location is the most expensive location for the project, but it is the far safer alternative. For starters, the cost of entry includes the purchase of private land as compared to the lesser entry costs of leases in the Dona Ana alternative.
Governor Susana Martinez offered praise for the project on behalf of New Mexico. She had to, but the state’s contribution to the uncertainty of the Dona Ana process cost the state dearly.
The state will collect annual commercial rents on 1000 acres of Lea County trust lands. They would have collected revenues on 15,000 acres in Dona Ana. The Commissioner’s willingness to support agenda philosophy ultimately left Pegasus in an untenable position, and … hurt the state’s educational coffers.
The unknowns
Robert Brumley is a gentleman who will not and cannot get immersed and bogged down in back stories. What can be discerned is that Dona Ana County did not offer the business welcome that the stark flatlands of eastern New Mexico did.
What was most devastating was the glaring headline surprise that raked the county in the late decision process when the site selection was down to two alternatives. The heretofore secret plan to usher in 600,000 acres of national monument by presidential proclamation does have ramifications! Quick business due diligence revealed there was not a monument in the system that had an industrial park within its footprint! Any good businessman would be forced to take a deep breath, and … make a decision.
In retrospect, it is not known what Pegasus thinks of regional football programs, but, rest assured … Hobbs and the Tech Kingdom will learn.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Pegasus’ sentimental choice was Dona Ana County. The greatest loss may well be the plans to marry endeavors of heritage with future discoveries. Our community loss is profound.”

THE WESTERNER sez: You can see my take on this, written before the official announcement, by going to On Pegasus & National Monuments.


Anonymous said...

I live in Lea County. Most business people here would sell their mothers down the creek for a buck. There is alot of economic development but no place for people to live, especially those who grew up here and don't have large incomes.

The childhood asthma rate is one of the highest in the state due to "economic development" side effects. Try getting an appointment to see a medical specialist in less than a month. Try finding a place to take your used antifreeze so you don't have to dump it on the ground. Try finding a dentist if you have a child on Medicaid. You will have a wait of a couple of months to get in. Enjoy the view of the mobile homes popping up everywhere since Lea County doesn't believe in zoning. Enjoy the temporary worker camp housing that will soon be built in Hobbs.

Economic development has not improved the quality of life for most of us long term Lea County residents. We have more restaurants, bars, hotels and ways to gamble your money away at a casino and race track. We need more dentists, doctors, family recreation areas and affordable housing that is affordable for someone making minimum wage or a bit above.

So far, there are select groups that benefit from economic development, but the whole county does not.

Mrs. B. J. Reed
Lovington, NM Lea County

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