Introduction

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 well and should be continued. There are also opportunities for change and expansion, and this report sets the stage for discussions about those opportunities.

This document, and the corresponding town hall for which it was prepared, is built on an understanding that people talk about economic reform from varying perspectives and using different vocabularies. For example, people who engage in economic development are more likely to focus on the changes needed to recruit and build businesses, and how to help those businesses thrive. By contrast, people who engage in economic change for individuals and families – particularly the fifth of the state’s population who live in poverty – tend to focus on changes to our financial and social safety net, and how to help these people succeed.

Experts agree we must do both. Regardless the lens through which New Mexicans look, we all want a brighter future for our state. We all want more prosperous lives for our children, our communities and our businesses.

While the big picture may be the same, people often work in ‘silos,’ isolated from opportunities to collaborate across professional or regional lines. Perhaps those insulated approaches worked in the past, but today’s economic realities call on us to integrate. Poverty will not be addressed if the state’s economy continues to contract. And our economy cannot expand if we do not cultivate more of our people to have a smart financial foundation and the skills to be wage-earners. Since our population size is not currently increasing, industry cannot grow our workforce without addressing the needs of the unemployed and ‘hard-to-employ’ so they may hold good jobs.

“The new demographic and economic realities make it simply impossible to separate the ‘safety net’ people from the economic development people anymore,” said Mark Lautman of the New Mexico Jobs Council, when interviewed for this report. “We have to set aside any history of mutual blame and work together to grow the economy, create great jobs, expand the workforce and meet people’s needs in a meaningful way.”

For these reasons, New Mexico First framed this report and town hall around business-based and family-based economic strategies that improve our state’s financial future. We ask people to think creatively, be willing to innovate, and also to honor the valuable, important work that is already underway.

To that end, this report addresses six major themes, each of which will be discussed by citizen groups at the town hall:

  1. Economic stability for low and middle income families, including the impact of safety net programs and the nonprofit sector on the state's economy
  2. Our changing workforce, including opportunities for engaging "millennials" in the new economy
  3. Advancing a culture of entrepreneurship, including support for our state’s many small businesses
  4. Industry diversification and new business recruitment, including consideration of the state’s tax structure
  5. New opportunities for rural and tribal development
  6. The changing role of government on the state’s economy, including federal dollars and opportunities for public-private partnerships

Together, we can build a stronger New Mexico.

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