A vibrant economy is perhaps the most sought-after policy goal for our state.Many businesses, government agencies and nonprofits advance this goal in New Mexico every day.Some of their activities are working and should be continued.There are also opportunities for change and expansion. Ultimately, economic development in New Mexico offers improved national rankings and can result in serious reductions in poverty and increased opportunities for all New Mexicans to thrive. The May 2016 town hall gathered the wisdom of our citizens, inviting them focus on outlining economic policy that can bring both security and vitality to New Mexico’s economy.
During this two-day town hall, participants explored the state’s opportunities and barriers in six primary policy areas.
New Mexico First engages people in important issues facing their state or community. Established in 1986, the public policy organization offers unique town halls and forums that bring people together to develop recommendations for policymakers and the public. New Mexico First also produces nonpartisan policy reports on critical issues facing the state. These reports – on topics like water, education, healthcare, the economy, and energy – are available at nmfirst.org.
Our state’s two U.S. Senators – Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich – serve as New Mexico First’s honorary co-chairs. The organization was co-founded in 1986 by U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici.
Attended by close to 200 people, the town hall brought together people from all seven New Mexico regions. Participants came from urban, rural, and tribal communities, and included business and nonprofit professionals, entrepreneurs, educators, students, and government officials. 
The town hall recommendations will be advocated to federal, tribal, state, and local policymakers as well as private sector leaders by an implementation team comprised of volunteers from the event. The team will be led by co-chairs Bill Garcia, former NM Department of Economic Development cabinet secretary and the current president of NM Highlands University Foundation; and Tom Taylor former NM state representative and current board director for Four Corners Economic Development, Inc.
Prior to the town hall, participants received a comprehensive background report that outlines the current state of New Mexico’s economy in six different issue areas, and overviews potential economic development options for each of those areas. With help from a statewide research committee, the report was designed to broaden the understanding of citizens and lawmakers about the economic policy issues facing New Mexico. It is available in the online library at nmfirst.org.
In the appendix, readers will find additional ideas and resources of interest:
In addition, interviewers spoke with several town hall participants, asking them to share one “big idea” for improving New Mexico’s economy. Throughout this report we quote some of these comments. A video compilation of the participant interviews, prepared by New Mexico PBS, is available at nmfirst.org.
 Fewer Native Americans took part in the town hall than organizers had hoped, in part due to a major tribal governors’ meeting that took place the same days. For this reason, the New Mexico First staff believed it was important to test the town hall recommendations’ applicability to tribal communities. Staff sat in on the June 2016 State Tribal Leadership Summit session on economic development and conferred with event organizers. The priorities identified at that summit aligned excellently with town hall recommendations. This alignment points to collaboration opportunities between New Mexico First and organizations advancing tribal economic growth.