Talon News - Good Local News


Local Economic Diversification and Government


February 2, 2018

Feedback from those first queried regarding unemployment in San Juan County: Vangie Neil with Aztec Niel Auctioneers, and Jason Sandel, Executive Vice President of the Aztec Well Family.

Aztec Well employs about 500 people according to Sandel, although those numbers, “fluctuate wildly based upon our work activity,” he said. A major unemployment factor, Sandel feels, is the downturn on the oil and gas industry stemming from the decline in natural gas prices dating back to October of 2008. “Of course, when oil took its second blow on Thanksgiving of 2014 it made any hope of a measured recovery very difficult to realize. It is easy to track local gross receipts tax collection to the decline in rig activity. Gross receipts collection is the best barometer of our local economy that is available. The decline in the oil and gas industry has a ripple effect throughout the entire area,” Sandel said.

Mrs. Neil believes the problem is not enough variety of industries. “We must pursue other industries to come to our area to keep our families here and together. It’s important to juggle more than one ball (oil and gas) in the air. It impacts everyone. We must stop leaning on just this one.” She went on to say, “The college is graduating exceptional students majoring in a variety of industries. But the work they seek is not here; no diversity, so they leave to work.

“From my perspective,” says Sandel, “We should be doing more to attract tourists. Navajo land and outdoors activities are extremely attractive but we fail to promote a tourist economy effectively.”

Sandel doesn’t believe governmental/non-profit agencies can do much separate from a concerted community effort, stating, “I believe that economic growth and development comes from a community theme — what we’re known for - so to speak. We must speak with a unified voice in every circumstance, many times over, to develop this theme.

Neil proposed that a consortium be formed and that we “band together to attract new businesses to the area. Let’s stop playing the geography game and move beyond boundary lines. Let’s come together for a better and stronger Four Corners.”

Sandel said, “I believe our communities are full of very hard working and dedicated people.” Regarding unemployment, he doesn’t believe businesses have much control, “Employment is not a good indicator of local economic health. Local GRT {gross receipts tax} collection is better.”

Conversely, Mrs. Neil expressed, “It begins with management. Companies spend more time retraining someone to fill a spot when all they had to do is spend time with their employees, getting to know their dreams, their wants, their needs and skills.

About greater agricultural utilization, Neil stated, “We have great farmers and ranchers; some successful, some not. We go back to the consortium. How about Aztec, Bloomfield, Farmington, Kirtland, & Shiprock carving out a few dollars to launch a marketing campaign that highlights/spotlights the uniqueness of each city and it’s opportunities?”

Sandel stated that, “Considering Aztec Well is not a manufacturing facility, we have not considered jumping into the renewable business. And, more generally, I think a better conversation for our community is about how we can replace coal with natural gas power and export the electricity.”

Interested persons are invited to contact the TALON, [email protected], to express your opinions about unemployment and what should be done to reverse this trend.


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