Selling New Mexico Internationally

Posted on 03. Feb, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, NM, Politics, Social/Cultural

In an earlier article, I wrote about the importance of ‘Internationalizing New Mexico,’ and now I’m pleased to report that we’ve taken the first tentative steps towards telling New Mexico’s story to the outside world and, in effect, selling New Mexico as a truly international destination for foreign direct investment (FDI), foreign students and tourism as well as scientific and cultural exchanges.

International time zone bending

The distance between the international world of commerce and culture has steadily shrunk to a tiny sliver since the advent of the computer and non-stop air travel. This bending of time zones has made the rapid transportation of information, goods and people not only possible, but absolutely necessary as the world has flattened out.

It has also created a ‘just-in-time’ (JIT) mentality and a set of expectations that must be met if communities and companies are to compete, internationally, for investment, contracts, consumers, tourists, students and services.

There are many U.S. states that depend quite heavily on cross-border or foreign trade and have, as a consequence continued investing in their individual states’ infrastructures in order to remain competitive in the race for FDI.

New Mexico is not geographically blessed with some of the ‘basics’ of a true international state. We have no seaports, no significant concentration of single industries or large population centers (save one) and no discernible international attitude. In short, on the surface, New Mexico has no real critical mass to attract many of the world’s top companies, nor does it have an undeniable academic lure for international students. There are two areas, however, where the State does maintain a competitive advantage. One is in tourism and the other is our national laboratory research facilities’ ‘footprint.’

Many would call New Mexico a ‘domestically foreign state’ given its high percentage of ethnic peoples like the Hispanic and Native American communities. These communities are important to the State’s growth because they show a deep-rooted history of peaceful and successful coexistence and interaction – something foreign companies and people in general look for when narrowing their search for re-location sites.

The goals and objectives

During these times of dwindling domestic market share, high unemployment and state and community revenue losses, we must re-balance the scales by choosing a new course that includes a massive effort to: 1. steadily increase the amount of foreign direct investment here; 2. stimulate the growth of international tourism; 3. markedly expand the number of foreign students enrolled in NM universities; 4. put NM on international organizations’ short lists for conferences/gatherings venues; and 5. enhance our international cultural relationships.

The problems and challenges

Nothing comes easy, and the challenges we face are fourfold: 1. a lack of public (and government) awareness of the benefits of having a global/international view, 2. an undersubscribed and underfunded network of international organizations, 3. insufficient overall investment in an international promotional effort, and 4. no centralized international leadership or champions.

Ours is the classic case of too many organizations with frequently overlapping missions (and too few experienced people) chasing the same dollars to fund too many duplicative activities.

One of the solutions

That’s why it may seem strange to solve these problems by adding to our existing inventory of offices or organizations, but that’s what I decided to do by establishing the New Mexico Office of International Cooperation (NMOIC). The office will focus its efforts on solving the four problems mentioned above through a special, organizationally-neutral project called, “IQNewMexico” (‘IQ’ stands for Internationality Quotient™) designed to tell New Mexico’s story abroad to foreign governments, businesses, the scientific and cultural communities and tourism groups.

The NMOIC is different from traditional international organizations that depend on membership dues and activities to stay afloat. It is a totally volunteer enterprise open to anyone who has international contacts that could be used to New Mexico’s advantage; who has worked or studied abroad; who has a compelling international personal story to tell or who is simply ready to roll up his/her sleeves and work to make our state a Land of INTERNATIONAL Enchantment.

Those interested in knowing more about how they can be involved should contact: Stephan Helgesen at or or by phone at 505/239-0008. Helgesen is a former U.S. diplomat and former Director of the State of NM Office of Science & Technology. He is now an export consultant and Honorary German Consul in NM.




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