Reposted with permission from the Hobbs News Sun.



Out of a job due to the oil and pandemic crises? Unemployed workers have a new resource for getting back to work in Lea County.

Effective today, the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County, in a joint project with the Hobbs Municipal School System, offers a solution to “get Hobbs back to work.”

According to the New Mexico Workforce Solutions website that also credits the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lea County’s current unemployment rate is 8.6 percent. Lea County’s average wage is third in the state, according to NMWS, at $1,104, exceeded only by Los Alamos and Eddy counties.

Collecting skills and contact information in both English and Spanish, the EDC survey will allow the organization to connect people with potential construction employers.

“The intention of the survey and the marketing plan is for us to reach out into the community,” EDC president and CEO Missi Currier explained. “We know folks are looking for work and we recognize they are hopeful and excited to stay in the region.

“This (initiative) allows us to do outreach to the community and say, ‘Are you a skilled tradesman? Are you a skilled laborer. Are you willing to learn a trade? Then, please let us get you connected with some of the companies that might be hiring,’” Currier continued.

By texting “build” to 474747 or emailing, unemployed or under-employed workers can start the process to get local employment in the construction field.

“We’re really focused on trying to find ways to empower the residents of Lea County to know there’s still so much good in the community and so much opportunity to build on in the community during this tough time and going forward,” Currier said.

With the construction of the Hobbs Municipal Schools’ $45 million Career Technical Education building to begin in late July or August, general contractor Albuquerque-based Bradbury Stamm plans to hire locally where possible.

“Working in close partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County and the Hobbs Municipal School to find and hire locally has been unique,” said Bradbury president Lawrence T. Peterson.

“These efforts will certainly benefit the current construction projects in the community and hopefully create the smooth process for more local hires in the future,” Peterson continued. “Our team appreciates everyone’s time and effort on this community initiative.”

Chairman of the EDC board of directors Josh Grassham said the initiative helps both local employees and the companies’ bottom lines.

“These subcontractors that are bidding on these projects will bring the people from outside if they don’t know the labor pool is here,” Grassham said. “Then, they have to pay them per diem and lots of other costs. So, this will help the schools and the taxpayers if we’re able to have our local folks stay here in the community. We know oil is going to be back. So, we hope to keep our folks here and help drive down the cost of having people coming in from outside.”

Grassham also mentioned the community pride of helping to build the CTE facility.

“They’re going to tell their kids and grandkids, ‘I helped build that,’ Grassham said. “That’s a great thing for our community and it will help people stay here and keep our economy going strong.”

HMS associate superintendent Gene Strickland said completion of the CTE is expected to occur in January 2022.

“We want this to be a cross-section of our workforce, and we want those folks that have the skills to participate,” Strickland said. “We want this to be a Lea County project. Since the CORE (Center of Recreational Excellence), it’s the largest project in our community.”

Currier said once a worker sends a text or email, the EDC will tell him or her how to access the five-minute online survey, either by computer or smart phone. Paper copies in English or Spanish may be obtained from the EDC if those electronic means are unavailable to the worker.

Other projects workers could transition into include the planned construction of the new Covenant Hospital and the new Southern Heights Elementary School.

Grassham said the EDC hopes the data collection, initially for the CTE construction, will help provide labor for the other projects as they come on line.

“So, if the oilfield hasn’t picked up, these guys could still have work,” Grassham said. “This is a great place to live and we definitely want to keep as many people as possible here as the economy starts to open up. That’s our ultimate goal. The stronger our economy, the more businesses come our direction and we can show we broke through the worst oil bust ever and our economy didn’t shrink. It just kept growing. That’s what our hope is here.”

Curtis C. Wynne may be contacted at .