LCSN: Does the Las Cruces area have enough income level to lure high-end stores?

September 26, 2010. Retrieved online September 27, 2010 from Brook Stockberger, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — Have you been scanning the Sun-News in hopes of learning about a Trader Joe’s groundbreaking? Do you ask your friends, “Why don’t we have an Apple Store?” How about Whole Foods? P.F. Chang’s?

Ever since Olive Garden opened its doors earlier this year, other national and regional businesses have been oft mentioned as a need/want.

Of course, Pro’s Ranch Markets is in the process of renovating space on El Paseo Road to open one of their supermarkets and a third Walmart is probably going to be built on the East Mesa. Buffalo Wild Wings and McAlister’s Deli opened a year ago and more companies are looking into the area.

There is interest.

“We do have a couple big ones (companies) looking around,” said Rick Stoes, managing director of the commercial real estate company Grubb & Ellis New Mexico. “The phones are ringing a lot better now and we’ve got things in the works.”

Donnie Brainard, president of Alameda Property Group which sold the East Mesa land to Walmart, has had a similar experience.

“There are quite a few retailers circling right now; it’s nice to see the activity,” he said. “They all are waiting on Walmart to start.”

Still, even though it is seen as an area of growth, can Las Cruces, and Doña Ana County overcome some of its drawbacks to attract the businesses many people want? For instance, more than 20 percent of residents in the county are below the poverty level, the Census Bureau reports.

Obviously, each company has different needs, but issues such as population, income and even education levels do play a role, developers report.

“(Companies) do look at income level and we’re not there (for some of them),” Stoes said. “That’s why we’re not seeing the iPod store, the White House/Black Market store, the Pottery Barn. We basically don’t have the market and income to justify the higher-end businesses.”

Brainard said, “Our county’s income and education are huge factors in drawing national chains. It’s almost always the reason I’m turned down.”

He said he tries to sell the region.

“I try to tie Las Cruces to El Paso by saying that we fall within El Paso’s MSA,” he said of the metropolitan statistical area. “This way I can at least boost our population numbers.”

Economist James Peach, who teaches at New Mexico State University, said that the income news is a mixed bag.

“In the U.S., about 4.2 percent of households have an income of $200,000 or more a year,” Peach said. “In New Mexico, that drops to 2.3 percent and in Doña Ana County, it’s 1 percent.”

Still, “If you look at households with $100,000 or more (in income) there are about 11 percent (here),” he said. “We’ve got a fair number of people in this community who are high income. But we’ve got just a horrible situation at the other end of the spectrum.”

In the area of economic development, demographics play a big role as well.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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