Three Banks Come Together to Help an Economically Depressed Town in New Mexico

Deep in the Southwest, there's a town called Farmington, New Mexico, where locals work mostly in the oil, natural gas and coal mining industries. This area of San Juan County has been hit harder than most from the fluctuating energy market, but fortunately, some local banks are in tune with these employment and economic woes.

Three banks—Four Corners Community Bank, Bank of the Southwest, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas—pooled together $14,000 to give the Four Corners Economic Development Foundation for business development in this struggling region of New Mexico.

The interconnected business relationships are a lot to wrap your head around, but the nonprofit beneficiary is Four Corners Economic Development (4CED) and this $14,000 is part of the Partnership Grant Program.

4CED CEO Ray Hagerman explained:

These funds will help local businesses hire the right workers, as well as connect with potential customers through Opportunity Expos and other training and networking meetings throughout the year. Almost all of our local businesses can be categorized as small businesses, many of them minority-owned. They are hard-working and innovative. We assist them by helping to provide trained workers, assisting with strategic planning, and finding equity as well as debt capital.

These three community banks’ investments in San Juan County will provide training and networking opportunities for residents. Job creation is a persistent problem in the third district of New Mexico, and not enough funding has found its way there, yet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the largest over-the-year rate increase of metro-area unemployment occurred in Farmington, New Mexico at +2.1 percentage points.

The oil, natural gas, and mining industries might not be able to support the number of jobs they once did, so workers need to learn new skills to prepare for other job opportunities. Now is the time for this region to reduce its economic dependence on energy, signaling some great opportunities for locally focused New Mexico funders to get involved with workforce funding.

Partnership Grant Program awards are presented annually and typically provide grants up to $12,000 for community-based organizations. They often go toward job training, but also sometimes to programs for research, capacity building, and contractual services.

The driving funding force here is the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. FHLB Dallas is offering $225,000 in Partnership Grant Program (PGP) funds in 2016 to be distributed through member institutions via lottery. Applications for this program are accepted between May 23 and June 24. This organization provides several types of grants not only related to economic development, but also affordable housing.

“We established the PGP to help support the operations of smaller nonprofit community organizations by matching grants at a three-to-one ratio with our member institutions," said Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of community investment at FHLB Dallas. "It is a win-win for everyone involved."

“Dallas” might be in the funder’s name, but the group supports at least 850 members and institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. You can learn more about this grant program on the FHLB Dallas website. A list of 2015 award winners and the application process can be found here, as well.