Hardscrabble tale charms luncheon (Albuquerque Journal)
More than 500 people listened to a story evocative of New Mexico’s dusty and rural past about a woman’s hardscrabble contribution to the state at Thursday’s quarterly investor’s luncheon of Albuquerque Economic Development. Told by Debbie Harms, CEO of commercial real-estate services firm NAI Maestas & Ward, the story recounted how a young widow named Emma McDaniel literally walked from Oklahoma to New Mexico with four children to start a new life in 1920. Because women couldn’t own land on their own at the time, Harms said, “Emma cut off all of her hair, put on overalls and a Stetson hat and went to the Land Office to apply for a homestead. She was granted the homestead under the name of Everett McDaniel. She began farming dry-land beans, and raised her four children.” Choking back tears as she spoke – catching many off-guard in a program full of businesslike presentations – Harms identified Emma McDaniel as her great-grandmother. “As we look at the people seated in this room, I am sure there are thousands of stories similar to this one, some with much longer and much richer histories. All a testament to the greatness of New Mexico,” Harms said. “The people of New Mexico are its greatest asset,” she said. “AED captures the essence of this greatness and promotes New Mexico around the world.” Also at the luncheon, AED President Gary Tonjes reviewed the nonprofit’s efforts to attract businesses during the first quarter by traveling to San Francisco and various site selection functions. Helping in the efforts from the private sector were Leean Kravitz of Fidelity Investments and Paul Finke of Gap Inc., he said. In all, AED met with 30 companies in the first quarter, Tonjes said. Files were opened on 21 potential projects that would collectively involve $1.1 billion in investments and create 5,600 jobs.