A Healthy Community, A Healthy Economy

Sandoval County, NM
Written by Claire Suttles

Sandoval County, New Mexico is turning heads. Exciting business opportunities, sunny skies, stunning vistas, and a high quality of life are attracting new residents like a magnet…
The fastest growing county in the state, Sandoval County’s population skyrocketed from 89,908 in 2000 to 138,834 in 2014. But, with 3,709 square miles of land, the community continues to enjoy a low population density, averaging just 36 people per square mile. In other words, residents can enjoy wide-open spaces and the opportunities that come with an influx of new residents and businesses.

Open for business
The community is ripe for economic success – both at the state and local level. “New Mexico is experiencing renewed growth in commercial real estate activities and credit availability post-recession,” Jami Grindatto, President & CEO of Sandoval Economic Alliance, reports. “Add to this improved incentives and tax credits plus simpler application and compliance processes, and you have one of the best possible climates to move or grow business operations in our community.”

“The business climate in Sandoval County is strong and vibrant,” agrees Angela Ward, Hospital Administrator for Presbyterian Rust Medical Center. “There is a palpable pride. The city and county governments are aligned with the goals of businesses to grow the economy.” Everyone benefits from this teamwork, she explains. “The support and collaboration from the county, and the cities within the county, offer an environment where public and private entities are focused on the shared goal of a strong economy and a well-developed infrastructure with services to support businesses and their employees.”

Sandoval Economic Alliance (SEA) works tirelessly to support local and incoming businesses. The organization delivers a wide range of free, confidential services to businesses and industries considering an expansion, relocation, or consolidation. SEA’s abilities include identifying available sites and facilities, accessing local and statewide incentives, and conducting economic and workforce research.

The region’s strong business climate has attracted a number of industries. Intel Corporation and HP anchor Sandoval County’s economic base. Intel – the leading technology company – located its semiconductor manufacturing facilities there and enjoys an extensive presence throughout the community. Federal laboratory research has long been a key sector in Sandoval County, while manufacturing has recently experienced significant growth in areas such as metal fabrication and aerospace parts. The community is also becoming a hub for the film industry.

Healthcare is another community focus. “Health Care is thriving in the County,” says Jamie Silva-Steele, President & CEO of University of New Mexico Sandoval Regional Medical Center (UNM SRMC). “UNM SRMC and Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, the two hospitals in the County, are continuing to grow and expand programs and services.” Countywide, more than $700 million has been invested into new healthcare facilities, promoting better health outcomes and delivering educational and training opportunities.

Local healthcare facilities and programs will continue to expand as demand continues to increase. “Due to demographic changes, demand for health services and trained health workforce will grow over the next decade,” says Richard Draper, Program Manager of Sandoval Health Collaborative. “The health and social services sector will be a key job creator and have a positive impact on better health outcomes in Sandoval County and New Mexico.”

The County has created a special collaborative to ensure that the community’s health strategies align with education and job-creation strategies. The Sandoval Health Collaborative brings stakeholders together from the two Sandoval County hospitals, Lovelace Westside, area clinics, Rio Rancho public schools and Bernalillo public schools, UNM, CNM, Sandoval Economic Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce, and the County. These diverse partners all “work toward three overarching goals: improving health literacy and wellness, developing and providing allied health education, and adding economic-based jobs related to health care,” Ms. Silva-Steele explains.

Live it up
Sandoval County boasts a high quality of life in addition to its strong business climate. “Our communities are working together as never before to better position our County as a desirable place to live, work and play,” Mr. Draper reports. “We’ve built collaborations and strategies to overcome challenges and derive the most from the many assets we have.”

These assets include “dramatic desert and mountain vistas and recreation,” Mr. Draper adds. “Hundreds of years of Spanish and Native American history and culture are around every turn. And unless you miss blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, our mild four-season climate is a big reason many come and stay.”

The county’s rich history includes some of the oldest continuously inhabited Pueblos in the Southwestern U.S. These historical treasures continue to serve as centers for art and culture to this day. “Cultural activities in and around the pueblos abound,” Mr. Grindatto points out.

Sandoval County is also home to the recently opened Valles Caldera National Preserve, located just an hour’s drive from the metro area. The new preserve “complements other known National Monuments like Bandelier National Monument in Sandoval and Los Alamos County and Chaco Canyon in our neighboring counties of San Juan and McKinley,” Mr. Grindatto reports. “As you drive to the preserve, you will stop along the way in places like Jemez Springs for good food, great art galleries and quiet lodging, should you want to stay at the local hot springs.” These amenities bring an urban livability to the laidback, rural landscape. “The county is very large and diverse, and very conducive to outdoor activities and sports, with all the services and entertainment opportunities of a larger city,” says Ms. Ward.

The county’s diverse geography – encompassing everything from empty desert to a bustling metro area – means that there is something for everyone. “Sandoval County offers the ideal mix of rural, suburban and urban living options, all within one hour driving distance,” says Mr. Grindatto. “For instance, small communities like the historic Town of Bernalillo and Corrales offer country-style living within ten minutes of the largest malls and brand-name shops in the state. Many families own horses and small livestock on affordable acreage, yet work for great companies and major employers paying good wages in the Albuquerque Metro Area.”

The diverse community is an ideal location for young families. “It is a very positive place to live,” Ms. Silva-Steele remarks. “It is a great place for families to raise children. There is a great school system in place with modern facilities to advance learning, great graduation rates, and curricula offerings.” Ms. Ward adds that the county is recognized for having “the best public school system in the state.” Local families and retirees will also find highly ranked healthcare options within a short distance of wherever they live.

Sandoval County’s unique attributes are attracting people who are fed up with high stress lifestyles in other regions of the country. “Our quality of life, with its small town friendliness and easy access to services and recreation, can appeal to employers and residents who seek an alternative to congestion, high costs and extreme climates,” Mr. Draper points out.

Mr. Grindatto believes that the community’s remarkable livability is likely to get even better. “Sandoval County is well positioned to grow its innovative economy while improving on a unique quality of life where multiple cultures thrive side-by-side and provide a richness in living unequaled across the country. The resulting inspiration provides fertile ground for new and emerging business ideas with products and services that will influence and change the world for the better.”

In a region bursting with opportunity, Sandoval County is well placed to remain a leading success story. “I believe Sandoval County is where there is the most opportunity in the state,” Ms. Silva-Steele summarizes. “There is a tremendous amount of focus and excellent leadership in place who truly want to see great advances in the County. Because of the close collaboration in place between City and County officials, there is definitely an advantage in place. I feel that the community is headed in a very positive direction.”



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