The Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Association, now in its sixth year, is further developing a community kitchen with a recent $10,000 grant from the City of Socorro.

In a meeting last week, the Socorro City Council approved the reimbursement of those funds to MRGEDA.

“The funding was able to help pay for past-due rent for the Socorro Community Kitchen and to assist in acquiring a phone for the kitchen manager,” said Kristin Keller, director of MRGEDA. “MRGEDA continues to seek additional funding to create and devel­op a regional kitchen that can be utilized by members in Valencia and Sierra counties, as well as Socorro residents.”

To this end, the organiza­tion had applied for Local Economic Assistance and Development Support fund­ing through the New Mexico Economic Development Department to assist in purchasing new equipment and supports to incentivize the community to utilize the kitchen and its equipment.

With the closing of Sierra County Community Kitchen and the more costly Valencia Community Kitchen, Keller said a Socorro Regional Community Kitchen “is in an ideal centralized location to reach new business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and aid in an organization fundraiser. With some equipment upgrades and marketing efforts, this project has real potential to be a business incubator.”

Keller contends the expan­sion of the kitchen — the first phase of MRGEDA’s two-fold project to improve the region’s economy — will promote value-added agriculture start-up businesses and increased workforce development.

Keller went on to update the councilors on projects from this year.

“MRGEDA worked with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Connections to host a Socorro County job fair in January 2022 that was well attended,” Keller said.

She added that she and colleagues hope to receive funding to host regional quar­terly job fairs centralized in Socorro with employers and job-seekers from Valencia, Socorro and Sierra counties.

“We would like to be able to offer mileage incen­tives for those in attendance in hopes of having a broader reach of participants and assisting with the increase in gasoline prices,” she said.

“The quarterly regional job fairs will also promote employment increases and decreases in the unemploy­ment rate, support work­force development and job retention and expansion.”

Keller said her group had also applied for U.S. Department of Agriculture funding in April to sup­port a second phase of the economic recovery project conducted by Community Economic Laboratories in 2020 for Socorro and Sierra counties.

“The second phase would include a timeline and plan for communities to utilize in their efforts to repair the economies in the Middle Rio Grande Valley region,” she said. “

Another project MRGEDA recently spear­headed was a collabora­tion between municipali­ties and organizations to develop a two-page ad in the New Mexico Economic Development Magazine to showcase this region’s strengths and assets.”

Participants would include Valencia, Socorro and Sierra counties, New Mexico Tech and the City of Socorro.

“The magazine ad will run for the year with a release date expected in September 2022, and it is being designed now,” Keller said. “Each entity will receive the electronic versions to share on social media and websites, as well as 200 hard copies.”

Created in 2016, MRGEDA supports the growth of six industries that include:

  • Agribusiness;
  • Arts, entertainment and tourism;
  • Health care;
  • Renewable energy;
  • Technology; and
  • Education/Workforce;

MRGEDA is increasing its membership and has added New Mexico Tech and Virgin Galactic in the last year.