The NM Department of Finance approved the proposed land swap between the City of Raton and Raton Public Schools (RPS). The City and Schoolboard have collectively agreed to the former Kearny Elementary School located at 800 South 3rd Street, Raton, NM for a track of land adjacent to RPS’s Tiger Football field. The swap greenlights the dedication of Kearny School to a workforce development project that will bring film and media production to northern New Mexico. The New Mexico Department of Finance Authority approved the agreed upon land swap, making the land swap official.
The partners and investors of El Raton Studios (ERS) and El Raton Media Works (ERMW) have created a preliminary phased plan to develop a workforce development training facility centered around the booming film and TV production industry in New Mexico.
It is the team’s belief that Raton and the northern New Mexico region should be participants in this quickly growing New Mexico industry. The team is developing a first-of-its-kind in New Mexico, state-of-the-art XR studio and educational center in the vacant Raton school.
“The City of Raton is excited about the potential for community development related to film and media production,” Raton City Manager Scott Berry stated. “The Kearney School project is anticipated to be the initial phase of sustainable economic development strategy for Raton and Colfax County that can support this flourishing industry, provide workforce training and opportunities for the local area."
"We are very excited to see our film and media education project move forward with the transfer of the Kearny School property and building, and are very thankful for the cooperation and support of the City of Raton and the School District," said El Raton Studio CEO Ann Theis.
The approval of the transfer of Kearny allows for the film project to move forward as the group is currently working on submitting a grant to the EDA for renovation and programmatic funding.
“Creating impactful development in rural New Mexico takes strong partnerships. Having the cooperation and participation of Raton Public Schools, the City of Raton and the group of film professionals who have come together with a shared vision is all a huge factor in the sustainability of supporting film in our rural community,” said Jessica Barfield, former Director of Economic Development and El Raton Media Works board member. “We’re creating a vision that includes the training of locals mixed with post-secondary training and commercial rentals to ensure the multi-faceted approach allows for market changes and accounts for rural demand.”
Currently, there are 23 film studios in New Mexico, however, only five of them are available to be rented by production companies, and none of them are using the advanced XR technology that the team plans to bring to Kearney. Additionally, no studios are operating north of Santa Fe, and all are struggling to meet the current demand for studio space.
All of this is not just a significant financial opportunity for the film studio being proposed, but for the hotels, restaurants, and other support services in Raton and the surrounding area. It is a job creator, a talent developer, and a way for Raton to be a leader in New Mexico’s next major industry.