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Anyone thinking that the state Economic Development Department has much significant to do with developing the economy should promptly drop the notion. The standard rhetoric aside, such thinking is an illusion.
Start with there being a whole separate department devoted to tourism, a fair piece of the economy.
Someone not knowing the name of the department but curious about the state might find the state website, newmexico.gov, the “official state portal.” A bit of looking at the site would lead to the lower left corner and a headline, “business resources,” with six subheads including “business assistance, economic development, job training incentives program.” I clicked on all six subheads, but connected with just two. My 2008 vintage MacBook Pro just wasn’t good enough.
Newmexico.gov had several topic headlines flashing by. One pitched, as an upcoming event, the 2012 state centennial. Carpe ayer? Boxes in the middle posed questions. “Are you a visitor? Are you a business? And, best of all, “Are you a citizen?” offering a guide to living in New Mexico. Non-citizens don’t count, apparently.
Early in the legislative session the department provided a “department update” to a key constituency, the New Mexico Industrial Development Executives Association. (Disclosure: I was IDEA president in the mid-1990s, but haven’t been a member for years.)
Finding the Economic Development Department via the Internet might be a little complicated. The website is gonm.biz — catchy but far from intuitive.
EDD seems a collection of bits and pieces. Even business recruiting is outsourced to the New Mexico Partnership, a public (the state pays nearly all the bills), private, nonprofit entity. The website nmpartnership.com, relates to the organization’s name.
The update did not mention EDD structure, but I’ll begin there anyway.
EDD starts with the Office of the Secretary. There are five divisions (economic development, international trade, space and technology, film and administrative services), two authorities (spaceport and border), two “offices” (business advocacy and military base planning) and the New Mexico Economic Development Partnership, which is the recruiting group, the New Mexico Partnership.
A review of the administration’s 2013 tax initiatives began the update. The new five-year strategic plan made page one. I have not yet read it. Work on revising the old technology plan has started.
A searchable database of commercial real estate properties is in the nuts and bolts of economic development. The booming Santa Teresa border area, which EDD has supported, hit page three. Union Pacific is a principal driver.
Then the MainStreet program got three pages. The overall headline was, “MainStreet Promoting a Rural Revival.” Well, hardly. MainStreet, as I see it, is a retail-commercial subsidy program for communities on the scale of Columbus and Wagon Mound and up to Farmington. Recent MainStreet attention has gone to, among others, Carrizozo and Hurley, and to old movie theaters in Clayton, Silver City and Clovis.
A far more important effort got one page, JTIP, the Job Training Incentive Program. JTIP, a training subsidy, has long been critical for companies considering a New Mexico location.
The update closed with the administration’s 2014 legislative program, EDD’s proposed budget, and 10 proposals from the legislative interim Jobs Council. Of the Jobs Council ten, five were tiny and the others included marketing money for tourism and the New Mexico Partnership.
An old, old, old problem shows with the update’s report that an issue developed for EDD by the Rural Development Council is training for local officials on the importance of economic development. What if the village or town officials don’t care? Is it the job of the state, through ED, to browbeat, er, train, them?