By Brook Stockberger / email@example.com
LAS CRUCES >> Ed Camden is right in the thick of the border action.
Expansion continues along the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Doña Ana County and Camden is both a part of and advocate for that growth.
“We’re in a unique position; we’re going to see growth much greater than the national average,” said Camden, 45, the new president of the Santa Teresa-based Building Industrial Association.
The Las Crucen points out that the $400 million Union Pacific project in Santa Teresa is a magnet that has national pull.
“Everybody talks about the Union Pacific project,” he said. “It’s bringing a lot of activity. (There’s) warehousing distribution companies that just feel like they need to be nearby.”
The BIA works to promote the southern New Mexico border area, improve the business environment for companies already there and to even help with economic development.
Multiple times in 2013 Camden and others were on hand when Gov. Susana Martinez visited to announce the location or expansion of companies.
In fact, Camden’s own company — he’s the president of Southwest Steel Coil Inc. — had two expansions itself of both space and employment.
“Sometimes you reach a critical mass where you’ve got so much momentum, good things start to happen just because of the momentum,” Camden said. “The proof will be in export numbers the state puts out, When you can look at the numbers for 2013, they’re going to be greater than 2012 and I’ll be shocked if 2014 is not much better than 2013 as a region, going through the Santa Teresa port.”
He said that New Mexicans can “expect more announcements in the next 45 days.”
“2014 is going to be a great year,” Camden said.
Camden first moved to Las Cruces from Indiana three years ago this month. Within a week he had joined the Border Industrial Association.
“It was a little bit self-serving: What better way to understand what customers we might sell to?” he said. “As I became more involved with it, I started to realize we do have a great opportunity in Santa Teresa with all kinds of challenges.
“We have the Union Pacific situation and a great border crossing and a thriving manufacturing base in Juarez and El Paso we can service,” Camden said. “All of those things are great advantages.”
He also met Jerry Pacheco, one of the founders of the BIA.
Last year, W Silver Recycling, a metal recycling company which has a facility in El Paso as well as Albuquerque, announced it would be making its “single largest investment in the region.”
President Lane Gaddy said that Camden along with Pacheco and Davin Lopez with the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, were the main reasons the company moved into Santa Teresa.
“We were looking at locations in El Paso,” Gaddy said at the announcement. “(But) without them strong-arming us, the timeline might have been longer. They really helped.”
“We get involved in trying to recruit companies to move down there,” Camden said. “We work with MVEDA. Not a month goes by without somebody coming into our facility and we’ll sit down and talk to this company about the advantages to doing business in New Mexico.”
He said that his work with BIA goes beyond impact for his company.
“Most of the (companies) we work with have no direct relationship and never will with Southwest Steel Coil, but I think that the more of these companies we help recruit to the area, the better off we’re all going to be,’ Camden said.
As for Southwest Steel Coil, the company opened in Santa Teresa in 2000 with just a handful of workers.
“It was kind of a small operation when I came down. We kind of had a little bit of business and hovered along making a little bit of profit,” he said. “Today we’ve got 45 employees and we’ve done two expansions.”
In fact the company, which takes steel coils and processes them for manufacturers, is adding two, 30-ton cranes to its arsenal.
“We take a big coil and split it or sheet it,” he said. “We cut it into different forms and different sizes to be useful for the customer.”
He said most of the customers for the company — which is part of California-based Calstrip Industries — are in the border region, with many being located in Mexico.
“Most of the new business we gained is by competing with companies in Mexico,” he said.
Camden said he considered living in El Paso, which would put him closer to Santa Teresa, but he and his wife decided to make Las Cruces their home.
“I love Las Cruces; we love being here and I want to help the business community grow and help the quality of life here,” he said. “Obviously the more jobs we create, the better. We’re a stakeholder in the community.”
When he’s not on a stage helping to introduce new business, he can sometimes be found on a stage with a rhythm guitar in his hands. Camden and Pacheco are both musicians and play together as a duo at Ump 88 Grill on Picacho Hills Drive.
“Pacheco is a talented guy,” he said. “We got together about two years ago.”
Brook Stockberger may be reached at 575-5410-5457