Time to make jobs a top priority

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By Stephanie Garcia Richard

A recent economic evaluation of the states, conducted by Bloomberg, found that New Mexico’s economic health has declined from being in the top 10 from 1995-2007 to dead last, today.
This summer, the Jobs Council, comprised of legislators and representatives from the private and public sector, was formed to come up with a strategy to get New Mexico back on track. As a legislator, whose district has been directly affected by the decline in revenue and jobs, it has been a unique and rewarding opportunity to participate as a member of the Jobs Council.
Through innovation, investment and proactive policy making, the Jobs Council offers all New Mexicans an opportunity to rethink how we approach economic development. During our initial meetings, a plan was developed to address needs at the local, regional and state level to promote job creation.
It was determined, with the help of economists and researchers, that we could return our economic health to the same levels of 2007 if we were able to create 16,000 “economic base jobs” a year over the next decade. A task that experts say is plausible by making a continued investment in job creation our top priority in the legislature.
To understand that goal let me define what this goal means. An economic base job is one where more than 50 percent of the revenues that support a job come from out of state sales or payments.
Non-base jobs are valuable too but they do not have the economic multiplier effect of base jobs. In order to accomplish this 10-year goal of 160,000 base jobs, we looked at production gaps, including a shortage of qualified workers, infrastructure and sales and marketing capacity.  
Earlier this month, the Jobs Council met to discuss possible actions New Mexico can take to assist in addressing these needs in a timely manner. Along with providing a statewide model and development priorities, the Jobs Council agreed on the need to fund efforts by the New Mexico Department of higher education, workforce solutions and the employability council to assist in the workforce gap needs.
The Jobs Council will also focus on aligning the state’s economic development commission, workforce council and council of government districts to facilitate data collection, analytics, planning and accountability.
The Jobs Council also felt it was important to expand and increase funding to proven programs like the New Mexico Partnership which recruits out of state businesses into New Mexico, the Certified Cities Program which helps prepare local communities to grow their own economies, the New Mexico Department of Tourism, and the State Investment Council and SBIC that leverage private equity.
In addition, we recommended the expansion of a state discretionary closing fund for major economic development projects. In order to develop new economic base job creation programs, the Jobs Council recommended using a combination of new program development, pilot programs and tasks forces to address forest restoration, nuclear energy and procurement development.
One of the main issues facing businesses in Los Alamos and the surrounding counties is the growing loss of government contracts. 
The Jobs Council understands the importance of protecting our local businesses and is working to develop various programs to help promote and expand contractor services and increase the amount of contracts sourced by New Mexico’s healthcare providers, federal government installations and energy producers.
This legislative session, I will be working with the private sector on legislation that addresses this directly at the state level. The bill will ensure that we are enforcing existing procurement laws to guarantee that local businesses can be competitive in their bids for contracts.
I realize the importance of the contractors to our economy in Los Alamos and northern New Mexico and will do everything I can to ensure that they are they are a viable, economic engine.