Our economy is flawed

-A A +A

Growth slows, state’s economy diversifies - really

By Harold Morgan

Finally, we almost have a new governor. Finally, also, we know the number of New Mexicans, 2,059,179 residing in the state as of April 1, 2010, plus another 8,094 living outside the country.
We know the state’s rate of population increase, 13.2 percent during the past decade, was half the rate of the 1990 to 2000 decade.
A good guess, if the Census Bureau’s between-census estimates are anywhere near correct, is that most of our population growth came from making babies. New Mexico holds much less appeal for grownups than do Arizona and Colorado.
As we move into the Susana Martinez administration, from the same old sources, we hear the same old easy and fatuous dialogue.
Our economy is “flawed,” they say. (Gee, what economy isn’t flawed?) “The state is too reliant on … government (and) it would be great to diversify beyond our mineral riches…” The number of unemployed people is much higher than the official figures, another says. And the old chestnut: We have, per capita, many people holding PhD degrees. To all, my response is, well, like, so what.
The real questions are: What is the New Mexico economy? What do we do?
Let’s take a brief look at the real world of the core of the New Mexico economy. There will be no numbers, just logic – my logic, anyway. So far as I know, no one else offers meaningful numbers bridging the NAICS categories. The link will be that our wildly varying work produces a product mostly shipped from the area and paid for with money shipped into the area.
In the statewide real world, the New Mexico economy is diversified. Really. We have agriculture (dairies, cattle, various crops). Resources include oil and gas (which behave differently) and minerals, from copper to coal, potash and maybe, again someday, uranium. We have the border with Mexico. Have you been to Santa Teresa?
In my view, the two big sectors are science and everything based in the land and cultures of the state.
Government pays for much of our science—the national laboratories, other exotic research outfits on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, astronomical operations around the state (can you imagine the private sector paying for the Very Large Array?), lightning research in the Magdalena Mountains. And on and on.
Engineers deny doing science. I disagree and put Intel in the science sector, broadly defined (if making semiconductors doesn’t use science, what does?). The Santa Fe Institute does science. Firms around the state make everything from angular rate sensors to engine overhaul kits and composite materials. Software, too.
The land and cultures sector might be called the “Enchantment businesses.” Again various governments play major roles. Tribal casinos, all about profit, offer an example. Statistically, they land in local government. The Museum(s) of New Mexico, run by the Cultural Affairs department, are central to Santa Fe. Other museum operations are scattered around the state.
There is skiing, literature, cuisine, spirituality (a dozen or so entities with holiness as their export product), art of all types, hot springs, chile, pistachios (which have brought a nice, solid sector to Otero County), wine, the Santa Fe Opera, solar, the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad, wilderness areas, hotels.
Another type of government, the sovereign tribal nations, is essential to our enchantment sector.
For our state government, the question is what it ought to do. That question lies within the economy of the state, which is composed of the people of New Mexico, living their lives, raising children and pursuing hopes and dreams. We’re long overdue for a substantive conversation about our state. This is an opportunity for Jon Barela, the new economic development secretary.

Harold Morgan
NM News Services