What happened when Santa Feans from diverse backgrounds and all industry sectors worked together to create a vision of their community’s economic future? Have their goals been put into action? Do economic development policies matter?
I’ve heard people often say, “What ever happened with that Angelou Plan?” A common perception is that the city has done little or nothing to complete it.
Actually quite a lot has been accomplished. The Angelou Economic Development Strategy was developed by the community for the community. Beginning in 2003, an 18-month process involved more than 1500 people envisioning their future through surveys, meetings, arguments, and packed house presentations at the Lensic Performing Arts Center (itself an economic development project of the city).
Some of the goals seemed overly ambitious. For example: Santa Fe should become the water conservation and clean energy capital of the U.S. Yet this goal inspired people in the construction industry, education, nonprofits, legislative bodies, and businesses throughout our community to participate in making it a reality. We aren’t there yet, but much has happened to green up Santa Fe and provide educational and training opportunities to our youth.
In the past six years, Santa Fe has seen enormous change. Much of this change was guided by the Angelou Plan with its focus on Arts and Culture; Design; Hospitality; Water Conservation and Clean Energy Technologies; Software Development; Publishing and New Media. Our community has completed once-in-a-generation building projects that were supported by our economic development strategy. We built green, conserved water, and bought local. We have new events to showcase creatives and to attract visitors. These efforts are diversifying our economy. Our results so far include:
• A LEED-Gold certified Santa Fe Community Convention Center filled with public art and hand-made artisan features that make it a beautiful and unique facility
• New runways at Santa Fe Municipal Airport and direct flights to Dallas and Los Angeles
• A community art gallery to showcase and sell the work of local artists
• One of the largest and most successful buy local organizations in the U.S. – the Santa Fe Alliance
• A new green building code to guide construction of green homes and public and commercial buildings in Santa Fe developed with the advice of Santa Fe builders
• The highest living wage in the country — $10.50 an hour
• Affordable housing ordinance requiring 30 percent of new developments be affordable
• The next generation of water conservation programs to encourage people to install low water using appliances in their homes (now that we’ve run out of toilets to replace), keeping Santa Fe’s water usage per capita among the lowest in the U.S.
• The Railrunner with several stops where new cluster development will likely spring up
• Santa Fe University of Art and Design, whose campus is owned by the city and with newly renovated residence halls, café and arts and culture curriculum
• The Railyard and Railyard Park that continues to fill with new businesses and events
• The expanded Santa Fe Farmers Market, one of the best markets in the country
• Warehouse 21 in its new building at the Railyard serving as a wonderful resource for young creatives
• ¡YouthWorks! helping at-risk youth learn green collar work skills, entrepreneurial skills, and earn GEDs
• Buskers – yes, those street performers downtown – were mentioned in Angelou as a way to bring more life and activity to our streets
• New events – International Folk Art Market, the largest market of its kind in the world; SOFA; annual ART Santa Fe; New Mexico Jazz Festival, among other events
• New Mexico History Museum named the best new museum in the West
• New Mexico School for the Arts, a statewide charter high school
• Thornburg Investment Company’s Campus designed by award winning architects Legoretta and Legoretta
• Clean Air Systems, a local green technology company recently sold to Caterpillar but continues to operate in Santa Fe
• The Sustainable Technologies Center at Santa Fe Community College under construction and set to open in January 2011, which will train technicians and green builders
• A media district zone (the only one in the country besides Burbank, CA) where Santa Fe County has worked to smooth the way for Santa Fe Studios to be built just down the road from SFCC – and just in time, too, because enrollment in film programs at SFCC increased at an astonishing 150% in just the past three years
Creative Santa Fe was formed as a direct result of the Angelou Plan. Its first action was to commission a study about the importance of arts and cultural industries in Santa Fe County. The study verified that more than $1 billion in receipts is generated annually by arts and cultural industries in our community and bring in nearly 40% of all the inflow of new money into our local economy. With these kinds of dollars at stake, you bet that economic development policies matter. They matter most when the community is actively engaged in choosing the policies and in holding their elected officials accountable for putting them into place.
We still have work to do. Our biggest challenges are education and affordability. Angelou recommended that we make education a cause to help young people learn and stay in school. Affordability is another big problem, both for living spaces and for studio/work/commercial spaces. Entrepreneurship training and developing the business enterprises to keep our creative young people living in Santa Fe is a must. It is time to come together again and renew our vision for Santa Fe’s economic future. The prosperity of our community depends on it.
Kris Swedin is Chairman of Creative Santa Fe, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen Santa Fe’s Creative Economy. Their website is www.creativesantafe.org.