Economic development is one thing. Developing the economy is another. Conflating the two runs rampant, to the detriment of everyone involved, especially those paying the bill, taxpayers and that small subset of taxpayers, businesses, drawn into supporting economic development.
Economic development in concept is straightforward. It is a sales task. Developing the economy is social engineering, a far more complex matter.
At the state level, the sales task goes to the New Mexico Partnership, a small (five-person, two-consultant) private organization.
The partnership, based in Albuquerque, spun out of the Economic Development Department about 10 years ago. The rationale was that state employees, restricted by necessary government procedures, were unable to “sell” competitively. They couldn’t even buy dinner for a prospect.
A prospect is a company that might expand its existing facility or move an operation or start something new. Such things do happen. The developer sells geography.
Conventional elected official-chamber of commerce thinking lays a totally unfair burden on economic developers, that a company will come to town — or to the state and through its presence, solve all problems.