Harold Morgan: Tourists come to N.M.; residents leave

-A A +A
By Harold Morgan

People find New Mexico an appealing place to visit if reminded by advertising emphasizing people and land — our Enchantment. 

However, some people find New Mexico, with its stagnant to declining economy (excepting the Southeast), an unappealing place to live.

The parallel elements emerged on consecutive days just before Christmas. 

“Quality of life” links the elements. A devil of differing definition hides in the link. 

The conclusion about visitor appeal comes from a Tourism Department study of a campaign featuring the “New Mexico True” theme developed by Vendor Inc., the department’s Austin-based advertising firm.

Vendor’s vindication came with the report that $1.2 million spent in three markets on the “New Mexico True” campaign generated 264,000 more trips here, $35.1 million in visitor spending and $3.6 million in taxes. 

Not that I expect the parochial complainers about Vendor to admit it, but maybe the Texans weren’t so bad after all.

Some Vendor principals did have New Mexico connections. Complainers included Jon Hendry, a film union (IATSE Local 480) official, and Gene Grant, an Albuquerque media figure. 

For the advocates and activists, admitting fallibility is not allowed.

A different concept of quality of life offers insight to the new state population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Our population was 2,085,538 as of July 1, 2012. 

During the year from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, a net of 7,577 people moved elsewhere in the United States. (The figure comes from subtracting the number leaving from those coming.)

Only 2,328 (again a net figure) moved here from outside the United States. 

Combine the two and we get what the Census geeks call “net negative migration” of 5,229 for the year. We have Harding County on a statewide scale.

While a few international immigrants bring Ph.D. degrees to the national laboratories, my guess is that nearly all are younger with modest education. 

They seek the opportunity of America from the lower base of their home country, likely Mexico. 

The departing, again guessing, seek the opportunity of America from the lower base of New Mexico. 

These people probably are older, moving into careers, and with children. Some are retirees, of course. I know one man who moved to Fort Worth.

The quality-of-life definition comes from Forbes.com.

Forbes ranks the Best States for Business and Careers using its Scorecard for Business Climates. The 2012 report was posted Dec. 12. 

“New Mexico took the biggest tumble, down 11 spots to No. 43 as its current economic climate and growth prospects declined relative to the rest of the country from last year,” Forbes said.

The Scorecard groups 35 data points into six categories. For only one category are we in the top half. 

It is growth prospects, oddly enough, where we are 22nd. For four categories we average a mediocre 31st place—labor supply, business costs, economic climate and regulatory environment. 

The quality-of-life category where we are 49th pulls us into the lower ten.          

For Forbes, quality means poverty and crime rates, cost of living and health. 

Enchantment factors get a nod with inclusion of culture and recreation opportunities and weather. 

Quality of life means education, which Forbes considers by using scores published by the federal Department of Education. 

These factors are the ones people consider when evaluating life each day. Sunsets are cool, but what about crime and the opportunity for my kid to get a decent education. 

For the 2011-2012 census year, people voted with their feet and left.

Meanwhile we raised the stakes with 28,306 new babies during the 2011-12 year. 

 The babies meant our population grew, but in three years or so, we will have to educate them.