Purpose of Report

This background report is intended to help participants prepare for the New Mexico First statewide town hall on the economy, May 19-20, 2016. This type of major deliberation is held every two years, on a topic of critical importance to the state. The statewide town hall is New Mexico First’s service to the people and policymakers of our state. The event will produce a platform of consensus recommendations. New Mexico First and other organizations will advance those recommendations in the coming years, with particular emphasis for the next 18 months, ensuring that the participants’ ideas receive attention statewide.

We believe that the best deliberations are informed deliberations. Therefore, all our town halls are preceded by a nonpartisan backgrounder that sets the context.

Note: There are few right or wrong answers to any public policy question, and the problems and opportunities around our state’s economy are complex. As a result, no brief explanation of the situation – including this report – can hope to cover all the information and opinions available.Our staff and research committee provide their knowledge and expertise, but ultimately the people, business leaders and policymakers of New Mexico must decide what course our economic future will take.


New Mexico First engages people in important issues facing their state or community. The public policy organization offers unique town halls and forums that bring together people from all walks of life to develop their best ideas for policymakers and the public. New Mexico First also produces nonpartisan public policy reports on critical issues facing the state. These reports – primarily on water, education, healthcare, the economy, and energy – are available at

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 retired Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici.

Research Committee

A statewide committee of researchers and reviewers contributed to this New Mexico First report. The lead authors are Heather Balas, Autumn Gray and Pamela Blackwell. A special thanks to the following committed New Mexicans for sharing their time and expertise (and for being willing to review this report in its multiple iterations)!

The committee includes:

Richard Anklam, New Mexico Tax Research Institute
Sharon Berman, New Mexico First
Leslie Cervantes, New Mexico State University (NMSU)
Elizabeth Davis, NM Economic Development Department (EDD)
Micaela Fischer, Thornburg Foundation
Ricardo Gonzales, El Paso Electric
Bob Grassberger, University of New Mexico (UNM), retired
Peter Ibarbo, Office of U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce
Abby Lewis, Office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
Richard Luarkie, Emerging Equities Solutions Group
Ceela McElveny, Albuquerque Economic Development (AED)
Scott Miller, Circles USA
Johnny Montoya, Century Link
Gary Oppedahl, City of Albuquerque
Jim Peach,New Mexico State University (NMSU)
Brian Rashap, Intel
Ndem Tazoh Tazifor,NM Economic Development Department(EDD)
Gary Tonjes, AED
Alvin Warren, W. K. Kellogg Foundation
David Williams, Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall
Peter Winograd, UNM, retired

Where Do We Get Our Information?

Throughout this document, we provide as many data sources as possible. We draw from published reports, newspaper and journal articles, first-hand interviews and online resources. We know that policymakers, researchers and students use our reports, so we provide the details you need to learn more – and answer your own questions. Footnotes provide short-references to complete citations in the bibliography.


Many thanks to the sponsors who made this report, and the accompanying town hall deliberation, possible. Sponsors are listed at

Some of Our Sponsors