New Mexicans want a robust economic policy that provides security for our families and fosters a vibrant business community that creates quality jobs for all our communities. They want to explore the potential of alternative workforce models that would meet today’s and future workforce demands. They also want to reform incentives and other elements of the state tax structure so that more businesses and families can thrive in New Mexico.
These recommendations and others resulted from the Economic Security and Vitality for New Mexico Town Hall, held May 19-20, 2016 in Albuquerque. With over 200 registrants, the town hall produced a platform of 11 consensus recommendations, each garnering support from more than 85 percent of the participants.
Prior to the town hall, all participants received a background report on the
The event opened with guest speakers, including video presentations from U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. A panel of experts provided additional context for the small group discussions which followed.
Participants then divided into small groups, during which they assessed New Mexico’s opportunities and barriers for effective economic development policy. They prioritized those issues into recommendations. All participants reviewed and refined the work of the other groups.
“We need to come together and align ourselves with a common vision for the state and collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. That is going to be key; there are a lot of good ideas at this town hall and if we decide to collaborate, we can go a long way.”-Jami Grindatto, Sandoval Economic Alliance
Town hall participants recognized that small business and entrepreneurship play a vital role in the growth of the economy. When these sectors thrive, living standards improve, poverty rates fall, jobs emerge, wealth generates, and thriving companies stimulate yet more businesses. To make these advances occur in New Mexico, the town hall called for excellent small business training and financing tools, as well as improved coordination among both public and private sectors. Innovation remains a key to success, such as new technology solutions for expanded broadband, creative business incentives, and cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The issues facing rural and tribal communities in New Mexico are significant. The town hall recognized that economically sustainable tribal and rural communities are key to our state’s overall future. Participants called for smart private and public sector investments in rural, tribal and frontier communities; most suggestions focused on using existing government dollars more effectively rather than increasing state spending. In addition, people looked to the future, pointing out that rural and tribal areas will become increasingly vulnerable if the next generation migrates to cities. So the town hall recommended smart investments in youth programs that provide skills to help young professionals prosper in these smaller communities.
New Mexico ranks seventh worst in the nation for industry diversification and we also operate within an unusual taxation system that is quite different from most other states. The town hall recognized that our tax structure makes it more difficult to attract new industries that would diversify the economy. Participants thus called for a major overhaul in the tax system, urging strategies that attract future businesses, meet state revenue needs, and support families. The town hall also called for cohesive strategies to make economic development efforts more efficient, regionally integrated and consistently funded.
The role of government in New Mexico is profound, both in terms of dollars and influence. The amount of state revenue that comes from federal, state and tribal sources plays a very significant role on our economic picture. Thousands of federally funded jobs and contracts contribute enormously to our state’s tax base through the national labs, military bases and healthcare services. Additionally, government affects our economy indirectly through regulation, permitting and authorizing varying budgets. The town hall called for reforms to make government more efficient, consistent and inclusive. Participants also want smart, straightforward pathways from “tech transfer” between government labs and the private sector – thus diversifying the overall economy.
“There is no silver bullet except for us pulling together and deciding we are going to spend our resources, our time and our energy making New Mexico better for everyone. Job creation is part of the solution, but it’s not the only answer. We have to focus on the big picture.”- Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM
Town hall participants were keenly aware that more people in New Mexico live in poverty than in almost any other state. Even middle class families can find themselves struggling to make ends meet. While all the town hall’s recommendations are intended to create economic opportunities and thus indirectly support families, one group at the town hall focused on the direct economic and social challenges facing parents and children. This group called for a “family-friendly culture” that helps all generations succeed educationally, balances family and work obligations, and considers the effects on families (similar to the way we currently evaluate economic impacts) when developing new laws or regulations.
High unemployment, low job creation, high poverty, shrinking population, and limited education all present barriers to building a strong workforce. All six small groups at the town hall prioritized education and workforce development in some way. Fundamentally, the town hall called for excellence this arena – recognizing that New Mexico’s economy will grow if all our people carry the skills to succeed in the workplace. Suggested reforms focus on improved alignment between colleges and employers, major efforts to get students through school, renewed commitments to vocational training, financial literacy, and consideration of additional group processes that might unite efforts strategically and cohesively.