New Mexico’s unemployment rate is now 6.7%, the nation’s highest, while the national unemployment rate is 4.3%. (See March 14, 2017 Albuquerque Journal article “NM unemployment rate now nation’s highest” page B-1).
New Mexico employment grew by a paltry 0.1% or by 900 jobs.
Ben Cloutier, spokesman for the State’s Economic Development Department blames our reliance on federal funding and reliance on the oil and gas industry for the states failure to diversify our economy.
The truth is that there has been a complete failure of leadership for the last eight (8) years by the Albuquerque and New Mexico business community as well as our elected officials to do what needs to be done to diversify our economy.
ALBUQUERQUE IS ECONOMIC ENGINE FOR STATE
It is often said that the Albuquerque’s economy is the engine that propels our State economy.
It has been reported that Albuquerque lost 14,900 jobs during the last 10 years, which is roughly 4 jobs a day.
According to one Brookings Institution report, the Albuquerque metro area’s economy was so bad between 2009 and 2014 that it almost fell off the charts of three measures of economic health.
Of the largest 100 metro areas in the U.S., Albuquerque ranked 100th, 99th and 83rd in the three areas measured by the Brookings Institute: Growth, Prosperity and Inclusion.
According to the same Bookings Institute report, economically hobbled cities like Jackson, Miss., and Rochester, New York, fared better than Albuquerque.
Albuquerque ranked 99th for economic growth, 83rd for prosperity and 100th for inclusion, which measures how an area’s poorest residents are doing in the economy.
According to US Census reports, more people are leaving the State than moving in, and our youth are leaving Albuquerque in droves to seek employment with a future elsewhere even after they get their college education at our universities.
Organizations such as the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the National Association of Commerce and Industry (NAIOP), the New Mexico Business Coalitions must share some responsibility for having done little next to nothing over the last eight years to attract new businesses to Albuquerque.
When City of Albuquerque Economic Development Director Gary Oppendahl was first hired, he was called a “serial entrepreneur” by the Mayor and maybe he needs to be called a “serial business killer” for his absolute failure when it comes to economic development.
For the past seven years, the City of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department has not attracted or convinced a single major corporation to relocate to Albuquerque.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LEADERSHIP REQUIRED
Albuquerque must redefine its identity, take bold and aggressive, calculated risks to attract and create high-paying jobs to keep our youth and talent from leaving.
Albuquerque’s taxpayers must be convinced by its political and business leaders of the importance of investing in major public facilities, construction projects and infra structure for economic development.
Albuquerque can turn our economy around with an aggressive and massive investment to reinvent itself like has been done by great American cities such as Denver, El Paso, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Columbus, and other cities that have invested billions in their communities.
The City of Albuquerque could use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds and even fund an economic development investment program for initial startup funding with claw back provisions.
Improving our schools and vocational systems, reducing dropout rates, are critical to diversifying Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s economy.
Albuquerque and New Mexico as a community need to voice our demands loud and clear to the New Mexico legislature that it needs to be far more aggressive in improving and funding our education system and fund early childhood care and intervention programs and mental health care programs and start solving the root causes of crime: poverty, poor education system, high unemployment, drug addiction, to mention just a few.
Albuquerque’s economic development efforts need to be better coordinated with our vocational institutions to identify new industries that can be attracted to Albuquerque and insure Albuquerque has the trained work force to accommodate any new industry.
Albuquerque can and must expand and find better ways to use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds, and even fund economic development investment programs such as initial start up funding with claw back provisions.
Albuquerque needs to pursue with a vengeance real growth industries like heath care, transportation and manufacturing, and the film industry to diversify our economy.
Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed.
Special emphasis and support should be given to Albuquerque’s film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs.
The City of Albuquerque needs to partner more with the State of New Mexico wherever possible.
A good first start in partnering with the State is to find a new vision for the State Fair grounds and how that very valuable gem in the center of Albuquerque can be better utilized to serve the Albuquerque community.
Other joint powers agreements can be entered between the City, State and County for the mutual use of facilities.
Our political, business and civic leaders need to show far more backbone and commitment to improving and diversifying Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s economy.
Otherwise, we are destined to become a dying, dusty southwest city and state without any real potential for growth and better economic times and continued high unemployment rates.