December 15, 2019

How To Create A New Mexican Job

Posted on 02. Apr, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

In 2007 I wrote the Strategic Five-year Plan for the State’s Economic Development Department.

For three months I crisscrossed the state talking to economic developers, city managers, mayors and chamber of commerce officials. I was pleased that they willingly answered the tough questions I had developed which dealt with infrastructure, tax bases, their principal industries and demographics and their vision of their town or city 10-15 years from now (then). I was also glad they agreed on the necessity to attract ’21st century industry’ and that it was this industry – not government – that would create the jobs. Most of us don’t focus on the ratio of private to public sector jobs in our state, but without going into too much detail let’s just say that without our public sector jobs our unemployment rate would be in the high double-digit range. While some might say that makes a strong case for retaining our government jobs, the truth is we can’t afford many of them, especially at the State level. Our current public sector looks like a fat man at a pie-eating contest. After gorging ourselves, we’re now paying the price with a bad case of economic gout. It doesn’t take a genius to know that we must economize, keep the jobs/services we need and jettison the rest AND steadily convert many of those jobs to private sector ones.

Today, we have around 30,000 manufacturing jobs IN THE WHOLE STATE, and despite some gains, we’ve not been able to shift into higher gear and see real improvement. Three NM counties don’t even have one manufacturing job. So how do we create the jobs necessary to reverse the public/private imbalance? We can start by acknowledging our strengths, which infrastructure and resource advantages we offer, and then ask ourselves the BIG question… why would a company want to locate or expand here? Aside from the obvious, companies need the fundamentals to be just right; to be in or near population centers with stable and trained workforces; and close to customers (and other businesses) with reasonably high disposable incomes. Too many fixed-income families aren’t considered an asset in the business world. There is hope, however.

Export markets and out-of-state companies

We cannot add enough local jobs to turn our state’s economy around quickly enough, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Just giving out loans won’t solve the problem. We need to realize that small businesses have a myriad of challenges, and not all of them can be solved with a micro-loan. While we must help our 136,000 plus small businesses stay viable and grow, we need to simultaneously fish in bigger waters and convince non-New Mexican and even non-U.S.-based companies that New Mexico means business – in any language. We need to focus on 21st century technology-based companies that need our rich resource of researchers, technologists and national labs. This will require a massive push by all of us, but most of all by our recruitment experts. We must re-double our efforts and double their budgets to get them, but get them we must. We need better and more targeted incentives, tax breaks that are tied to job creation, more commercially-relevant education in our schools and a state government that works smarter and more efficiently with our communities. On a national scale, we must bring back manufacturing jobs and grow our exports. If our exports represented a higher percentage of our sales we wouldn’t be as vulnerable during times of domestic decline. This is an election year, and job creation must not be a political football that’s passed laterally down the field. We must urge our candidates to give us their specific plans for New Mexico’s recovery, not general statements like, “I’m for job creation.” Businesses can’t wait for November 2nd to make plans or their investments, and we should give them the information they need to help them survive and thrive, now. In this global economy, we are not only competing with our neighbors, we are competing with cities thousands of miles away, in other countries and on other continents. Patrick Geddes, the Scottish town planner and activist had it right; think globally, but act locally. I would add, the sooner the better.

Stephan Helgesen is former Director of the Office of Science and Technology for the State of New Mexico and retired U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Officer who served in twenty foreign countries. He is CEO of 2nd Opinion Marketing, an international high-technology consultancy company.

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