Talon News - Good Local News

DEDICATED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Warren Unsicker, 4CED Director

 

March 10, 2017

Debbie Israel

Unsicker at his office on the San Juan College campus

Economic diversification has become a key aspect to sustain jobs and businesses within San Juan County and its communities. This is one of the goals of Warren Unsicker, the new executive director of Four Corners Economic Development.

Unsicker came to the community a little more than two months ago. He and wife, Nicci Unsicker, purchased a three-acre farm in Bloomfield, where they live with their two children and a flock of chickens they brought with them from Tulsa, Okla.

Warren was hired to head the local economic development organization based at San Juan College, while his wife Nicci is an attorney in private practice.

Warren is one of only seven certified economic developers in the state of New Mexico, and he comes to the community with 10 years experience building up the economic base in communities such as Wabash, Ind., Tulsa, Okla., and Broken Arrow, Okla.

He stated that there are economic similarities between San Juan County and Tulsa with the long-standing dependence on extractive industries and agriculture in both areas.

"Diversification is one of the key things we are working on without losing our key base," he said in an interview at the San Juan College Center for Workforce Development, where his office is located.

He essentially hit the ground running once he arrived and has been meeting with business owners, government officials and the general public to get a feel for the community and its business needs. "I've been working with existing business, working with the oil and gas folks with issues that have arisen, and we hope to insulate the community from future boom and bust cycles," Unsicker said.

There are many benefits San Juan County and the local communities have to offer, and according to Unsicker a diversified economy wouldn't necessarily only focus on bringing manufacturing companies to the region. Four Corners Economic Development is looking at tourism, agriculture, education and healthcare as a basis for building the economy and creating jobs. He said Navajo Agriculture Products Industry, or NAPI is an asset to the region, as is the fact that the area is "location neutral."

Unsicker explained "you can work here and have clients throughout the nation."

Part of his job will be reaching out to businesses from outside the area and selling the community as a place to locate. He will do this through a recruitment process of "going to national conferences on industry sectors" with the hope of bringing businesses back to the area. "I call this shooting fish in a barrel rather than a scatter gun approach," Unsicker said.

"I've been spending a lot of time evaluating what we're doing," he said. "This community has a good feel to it."

There are some challenges, however, San Juan County has difficulties with exporting products from the region. "Transportation is a strategic goal for the region," Unsicker said. "There also is a lack of knowledge about the state as a whole that is a challenge."

Unsicker also would like to bring businesses back to Farmington's and Aztec's downtown areas, which he said remind him the downtown in Broken Arrow, which he helped to revitalize through a rebranding and marketing campaign.

"In Tulsa we put a lot of time and energy into the brand," he said. Broken Arrow became the Rose District complete with entertainment, restaurants, shopping and housing. It was a place where businesses wanted to be and it was a success story for Unsicker.

This young professional, who said he will "never tell" his age, grew up in Alaska and moved to California for his college years. He studied at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where he majored in economics and business. His first job out of college was in economic development in Wabash. "It sparked my passion for the career," Unsicker said.

Some 10 years later, the Unsickers have landed in San Juan County, where they hope to raise their family and some horses on the farm, while Nicci practices law and Warren diversifies and builds the economy.

 

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