Modest proposals from Think New Mexico

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By Harold Morgan

Some Republicans in the Legislature plan to introduce a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage between two people of the same sex, according to a credible recent rumor. Such action would suck the energy from the 2014 legislative session, make for continued inattention to our quality of life and continue Republican business as usual.
Fortunately, with regard to the economy, someone is thinking about something comprehensive, though modest. That is Think New Mexico (thinknewmexico.org), the “results oriented think tank,” with credibility from substantive proposals reasonably presented. TNM’s new report is “Addressing New Mexico’s Jobs Crisis.”
Fred Nathan, TNM founder and executive director, and I view the world somewhat differently. We do have good debates. For sure, I’m glad TNM is doing what it does.
The interim Jobs Council of the Legislature is the only other outfit I know comprehensively looking at the economy. In the council’s case it involves a semi-baffling bottom-up building of the desired number of economic base jobs.
TNM’s big idea is a $12.5 million scholarship program to increase the number of international undergraduate students at New Mexico universities, especially those studying business, science, technology, engineering and math. Money would come from dumping a number of the more ludicrous gross receipts tax nuances. Well, could be, but such tax proposals are about as naïve as my crusade for fixing the state Constitution. Definitely interesting, though. The logic is, “Immigrants start businesses at more than twice the rate of non-immigrants.” Of course, if immigrants are five percent of undergraduates, TNM’s 2018 goal, the remaining 95 percent will start many more businesses.
“Ultimately,” TNM said, such undergraduates “mean more jobs for New Mexicans.” Yes, ultimately, perhaps.
The other proposals are modest, too — a one-stop business shop for fees and filings at the state level, and a “post-performance incentive” as an “alternative option” to existing economic development incentives; in other words, “pay” companies via tax rebates for really creating jobs. These ideas lie well short of a crisis-level response to “New Mexico’s Jobs Crisis.”
Relating failed economic development deals sets up the new incentive proposal. The “bad” examples are a promotional deal in Clovis that didn’t materialize, a solar manufacturer with a plant premised on a tax-subsidized boom, and a film studio entering the competitive, cyclical and subsidized business.
Meanwhile a new study released by the Green Chamber of Commerce and the Mid-Region Council of Governments shows “that solar energy in New Mexico has strong economic development potential.”
Chasing dreams. My recent reminder about failed hopes, dreams and promotional deals comes from sorting the business papers of my late father who was involved in mining. Hopes and dreams fail all the time. I’m interested in specific business actions producing returns for the effort and money invested.
For example, operating from his northeast Albuquerque home, Vincent Borrelli sells rare and contemporary photography books around the world, mostly in Europe. The University of New Mexico’s photography program remains among the top handful nationally. A niche industry, photography.
We have undeveloped resources—gold, silver, rare earth, uranium. Santa Fe Gold Corp. has two mines and one in development. Lumber in the forests should be cut instead of fueling forest fires.
Finally, a new element is coming to our chile industry from a New Mexico State University project to categorize “landrace” chile varieties, those traditionally grown by families on small plots.
These actions are producing (or will produce) jobs around the state, quite different from subsidized students “ultimately,” maybe someday, perhaps starting businesses, most likely in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.