El Paso leaders share 2022 achievements, top concerns for 2023
El Paso Inc. staff Jan 1, 2023 Updated Jan 4, 2023

What was your organization’s top accomplishment in 2022? Ray Adauto Ray Adauto

Ray Adauto, executive VP, El Paso Association of Builders

Two accomplishments come to mind. First, working to keep our new home construction going under extreme supply chain issues, labor shortages, rising costs and higher interest rates.

Second, the El Paso Association of Builders organization being recognized for association leadership at the state and national association levels, including creating an app for iOS and Android for our members to use – a first in the state and maybe the nation.

Brenda De Anda-Swann Brenda De Anda-Swann

Brenda De Anda-Swann, general manager, KVIA Channel 7

From the retirement of longtime GM Kevin Lovell, to good employees getting top opportunities in Chicago or D.C. and just regular turnover, the station saw massive change in 2022. Even so, we stayed true to our core and promoted from within or stayed local, representing our community for the vast majority of promotions and hires.

Our biggest accomplishment is the stability of our product. Our team is laser-focused on serving the borderland – whether it’s the sales department serving our clients or the news department serving our viewers (and we had massive, impactful stories to cover!).

John Balliew John Balliew

John Balliew, CEO, El Paso Water

El Paso Water made significant progress in 2022 on new water supply projects. An expansion is underway at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination plant, which transforms brackish water into drinking water. The project will increase daily water production by 6 million gallons.

We will soon break ground on the aquifer storage and recharge project in Northeast El Paso that will help preserve groundwater for the future. Also, the design is 95% complete on the advanced water purification facility that will transform treated wastewater into drinking water. We received a $20 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2022 to help construct the new facility. All three projects will contribute to our community’s long-term sustainability.

Jon Barela Jon Barela

Jon Barela, CEO, The Borderplex Alliance

Our biggest accomplishment this year, and over the last 10 years of our existence, is the creation of over 22,000 private-sector, high-paying jobs. We’re very proud of that and also about being named the economic development organization of the year by the International Economic Development Council.

Sereka Barlow Sereka Barlow

Photo provided by YWCA Sereka Barlow, CEO, YWCA El Paso del Norte Region

One of YWCA’s top accomplishments in 2022 was continuing to grow our after school programs. This is a vital service that helps El Pasoans work and go to school knowing their children are in a safe, educational after school program. This year, we expanded our sites and have more sites than we did at the start of COVID-19.

We were also very excited and proud to bring back YWCA’s Annual Women’s Luncheon. That event is a key fundraiser for our organization, and it was amazing to bring the community together in support of YWCA programs again in 2022.

Jeffrey Downey Jeffrey Downey

Jeffrey Downey, El Paso special agent in charge, FBI

In early 2022, FBI El Paso observed a growing trend with kidnapping-for-ransom extortion schemes targeting undocumented migrants who have paid human smugglers to bring them across the U.S.-Mexico border. Once they were delivered to stash houses in El Paso, the victims and their family members became involved in very frightening extortion schemes for more money.

The FBI El Paso’s violent crime and gangs task force worked quickly with our partners at U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to combat this trend. Although it’s still occurring, we have seen a reduction in reporting of KFRs. FBI El Paso wants to stress the focus of these investigations is not a person’s immigration status, but instead the extortion crime. Our concern is the safety and well-being of the victims.

Floiran Estrada Floiran Estrada

Maj. Floiran Estrada, commander of the Salvation Army in El Paso

Our greatest accomplishment has been renovating our family shelter to better serve families and individuals in need.

Rick Francis.jpg Rick Francis

Rick Francis, Executive Chairman, WestStar Bank

As we close out 2022, WestStar is proud to have had another record year serving the region. The bank originated over $731 million in loans to individuals or companies connected to the region, including over 1,300 residential home starts and 1,000 apartment units. WestStar provided new funding for a major health care clinic to serve our local population in the Lower Valley, as well as funding for many new and existing businesses to create more jobs and expand the region’s tax base.

WestStar officers serve on 54 nonprofit, civic and charitable boards, and our team members put in countless volunteer hours. WestStar provided over $1 million for civic, charitable and economic development expansion opportunities for the community.

Adam Frank Adam Frank

Adam Frank, president, River Oaks Properties

Our biggest accomplishment was finishing Eastlake Marketplace, a new power center at the intersection of Eastlake and I-10. We brought new tenants to Far East El Paso, including Crumbl Cookies, Dutch Bros, Five Below, Cracker Barrel and Ulta. We also started construction on future projects that will be delivered in 2023 and 2024, including Eastlake Commons at Eastlake and Rojas and The Market at Darrington, a new Albertsons anchored center at Eastlake and Darrington, as well as multiple projects along Zaragoza.

River Oaks is extremely proud that we were able to deliver over 200,000 square feet in new retail space to El Paso despite the challenges. This was all done with the highest construction costs our company has ever seen and significant supply chain shortages.

Susan Goodell Susan Goodell

Susan Goodell, CEO, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

While it may be too early to tell, we think that we’re going to bring in about 100 million pounds of food to feed our community. We just got the national rankings of where we stand in the country and are the sixth largest food bank in the nation in terms of the amount of food that we distribute – not the sixth largest based on revenue or the size of our building but in the amount of food we distribute, which is the most important measure.

We’ve added to our fleet of trucks and are in 48 states picking up food and bringing it into El Paso to feed our neighbors in need. We’re building a Mercado at our building, and putting in this shade structure is going to make a big difference to our clients in summer.

Andrea Hutchins Andrea Hutchins

Andrea Hutchins, CEO, El Paso Chamber

2022 proved to be a busy year for the chamber, and we’re only getting busier! This year, was a time of transition for EPC, so we’re going to hit the ground running in 2023. We’ve seen many successes this past year, but our greatest accomplishment would be solidifying a team of talented, community-minded individuals who believe in the region’s continued progress.

James Isenhower III Maj. Gen. Jim Isenhower

Cosima Rangel Maj. Gen. James Isenhower III, commanding general of Fort Bliss

Our team has many achievements to be proud of this year. We have participated in and supported several successful training events, including four Combat Training Center rotations. We have over 5,000 personnel either deployed or preparing to deploy worldwide for readiness and posturing. We also assumed training readiness authority over the 4-60th Air Defense Artillery Battalion in November as part of our modernization efforts.

As we conclude the year, our team executed the Iron Summit, a leadership event with over 600 soldiers, civilians and leaders in attendance at the El Paso convention center. After two years of restrictions at Fort Bliss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the environment is finally back in a position where Fort Bliss can return to full operations. Our team is working to reopen the installation to maximum capacity and provide full services to soldiers, civilians, families and the surrounding community.

Matt Keats Matt Keats

Matt Keats, co-chairman, Keats Southwest

Keats Southwest had its best year in 2022. We stayed ahead of the supply chain issues and rising costs of material and other services. Our sales increased 40% from 2021. Some of that can be attributed to customers bringing more stock to offset the shortages during the pandemic. We are also seeing reshoring from Asia. More manufacturing is coming to the U.S. and Mexico!

Terry Kebschull Terry Kebschull

Terry Kebschull, director, El Paso Animal Services

El Paso Animal Services saved 10,209 lives in 2022, through November, and hired a full-time veterinarian after an almost one-year vacancy.

Richard Lange Dr. Richard Lange

Provided by TTUHSC El Paso Dr. Richard Lange, president, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

This was an exceptional year for TTUHSC El Paso, especially for our Hunt School of Nursing. Through several fundraising campaigns and our 10th anniversary celebration on campus in May, we raised nearly $1.9 million for nursing student scholarships. Thanks to the community’s support, this year the Hunt School of Nursing also awarded its first three full-tuition scholarships for unmet need.

Nicholas Tejeda Nicholas Tejeda

Nicholas Tejeda, group CEO, The Hospitals of Providence

Over the last two decades, we have invested over $2 billion across El Paso. Continuing that trend in 2022, an additional $60 million was invested in our hospitals and clinics.

At our East Campus, we increased the number of hospital beds by 20%. At our Memorial Campus and Providence Children’s Hospital, we began construction on a new Level IV neonatal ICU while enhancing cancer therapy services. At our Sierra Campus, we introduced new robotic surgical technology and technology that improves the treatment of heart failure.

At our Transmountain Campus, we invested in advanced equipment to treat issues related to the esophagus and stomach.

We also enhanced our clinical programs. Perhaps most notably, we introduced a new psychiatry residency in collaboration with Texas Tech as a building block to address the deficit of mental health providers in our region.

Kelly Tomblin Kelly Tomblin

Kelly Tomblin, CEO, El Paso Electric

Our top accomplishment in 2022 was embedding a tremendous amount of new technology throughout our company for our customers. We continue to be weather resilient with the implementation of new technology and diverse fuel resources, new infrastructure to maintain a high level of reliability throughout our region and the modernization our grid for the electric vehicle revolution occurring today.

We are building a vast communications network to begin deploying new smart meters in 2023 that will give customers the power to make energy-wise decisions.

What is your top concern for 2023? Ray Adauto, executive VP, El Paso Association of Builders

2023 has serious issues, including inflation, new energy codes, continuing labor shortages and supply chain snarls – issues that affect our ability to deliver a completed home. Other issues include a shortage of electrical transformers and rising water rates. And we must have immigration reform in 2023.

Brenda De Anda-Swann, general manager, KVIA Channel 7

The uncertainty regarding the economy is worrisome. We are a family-owned business, so we see the impacts of an unstable economy on our employees and our clients right away. We are adjusting by redoubling our efforts to tailor solutions to specific needs even more and seeing where we can help. We are excited about an initiative we’re launching that we believe will amplify efforts to address some deep needs when it comes to mental health. We are focusing on what we can do for our community.

John Balliew, CEO, El Paso Water

Managing staffing levels will continue to be a big challenge for El Paso Water. Like many other employers, we have struggled with retirements and vacancies. This puts a strain on existing employees as we work to provide reliable services to our community.

In 2022, we increased staffing initiatives, including pay adjustments, promotions and recruitment, but 25% of our positions remain unfilled and 30% of our employees are eligible for retirement in the next five years.

Jon Barela, CEO, The Borderplex Alliance

My biggest concern is the amount of sovereign and personal debt that exists and that has been racked up by the government, especially the federal government. The rate of spending is just not sustainable for future growth. It will place inflationary pressures artificially on our economy. It will also squeeze out other types of discretionary spending from the federal government.

Sereka Barlow, CEO, YWCA El Paso del Norte Region

The pandemic brought child care to the forefront of conversations about economic and societal needs. All levels of government made supporting and funding child care a priority. However, as we go into a new year, YWCA is concerned the support will end.

Funding loss will leave child care providers in dire straits and further stress the industry. Safe and quality child care is key to both family and community success.

Jeffrey Downey, El Paso special agent in charge, FBI

Cyberattacks have no borders and keep evolving in complexity. Cyber risk is business risk, and for the FBI, cybersecurity is national security, so it will be FBI El Paso’s top concern in 2023.

Part of our focus will be to build enduring partnerships to combat the ever-changing and increasingly complex cyber ecosystem. By building these partnerships, together, we can defend America’s values, ingenuity, critical infrastructure and business equities.

Maj. Floiran Estrada, commander of the Salvation Army in El Paso

Our greatest concern going into 2023 is the ongoing inflation crisis and how it will impact our ability to meet the increasing need in El Paso.

Rick Francis, Executive Chairman, WestStar Bank

Locally, we are fortunate to be in a very dynamic and growing region that will experience a much milder recession than the rest of the country. Industrial and manufacturing construction in the El Paso/Juárez borderplex is at historic highs, with the macro trends of reshoring manufacturing away from China to North America being an economic tailwind unseen since the Fort Bliss expansion in the early 2000s.

Adam Frank, president, River Oaks Properties

Our biggest concern going into 2023 is the potential for a recession and consumer slowdown. In 2022, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to the highest we have seen in over 15 years. As of now, we have not seen a large impact on the retail consumer. Companies continue to open new locations, and the consumer seems to be resilient.

We will have to monitor the local and national economy to see if there is a lagging effect on consumer sentiment, which would lead to lower retail sales and the potential for retailers to delay decisions on new store openings.

Susan Goodell, CEO, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

The continued global food shortage is an enormous challenge. With only about 5% of our food coming from the local community, we are constantly struggling to find enough food for El Paso.

We have seen a little bit of easing in the food supply over the last couple of weeks, but two weeks of data is not enough to have confidence going into 2023. A huge challenge is continuing to find the financial resources to send our fleet, our drivers, long distances to find adequate food supplies. People forget that hunger was a massive challenge in this community pre-COVID. It did not go away with COVID, and it is not going to go away anytime soon.

Andrea Hutchins, CEO, El Paso Chamber

As our team grows, so do our ideas. These ideas present new avenues for progress and potential ways to grow. We’re firing on all cylinders, but we’ve come upon one troubling issue: There’s just not enough time to do what we’d like to get done. We know that we have our work cut out for us, but we are up to the challenge!

Maj. Gen. James Isenhower III, Fort Bliss commander

The near-peer adversarial threats of China and Russia are concerning. As America’s finishing force, the 1st Armored Division remains vigilant in our training and modernization efforts as we build up our force protection platform to stay ready at a moment’s notice to not only deter but defeat our enemies.

Over this past year, we had three brigades forward deployed in support of our allies to deter these threats. We also remain actively engaged in our recruiting efforts to educate the next generation about our mission. We continue to highlight the expertise and activities of our formation to recruit future soldiers and leaders into the Army.

Matt Keats, co-chairman, Keats Southwest

Unfortunately, 2023 looks like a slowdown. Inflation, interest rates climbing and a lot of consumer credit card debt will slow the economy and spending on material items. The prices at the grocery store are at an all-time high. Something has to give. Recession? I hope not!

Terry Kebschull, director, El Paso Animal Services

Reducing the shelter population to ensure safe and comfortable housing for pets during the shelter expansion project, which is projected to begin in spring 2023.

Dr. Richard Lange, president, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

As TTUHSC El Paso celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2023, we’ll honor the people who recognized there was a critical need to educate and train health care professionals here so they’d stay in the region. We’ve made great strides in our first decade, but there’s still more to be done.

This region still has a significant shortage of physicians, nurses and dentists. We’re facing a 60% shortage of physicians and a 20% shortage of nurses when compared to national averages. In addition, El Paso County has only one dentist for every 4,840 residents compared to the national average of one for every 1,638.

Nicholas Tejeda, group CEO, The Hospitals of Providence

Similar to all hospitals across the nation, our challenge in 2023 is summarized by one word: staffing. Fundamentally, we must develop and recruit top talent not just locally but also from outside the region to address the deficit of health care providers in our community.

Our partnership with nursing, medical and technical schools across the region will continue to play an integral role in addressing this significant challenge.

Kelly Tomblin, CEO, El Paso Electric

The electric industry is the backbone of the nation’s energy grid today, and El Paso Electric will continue to play an important role in facilitating the continued transition to a resilient, clean energy future we all want. To do so, we all need to support and work with each other to drive the economic vibrancy this region deserves.

El Paso Electric understands its role in economic development, and that is why we are making bold decisions in our carbon reduction goals to support our mission of transforming the energy landscape through new generation, building a modernized grid, transportation electrification and enhancing customer options. El Paso Electric has big plans but needs the support of the community and business partners to make these goals a reality.