NEW MEXICO ECONOMY – Lee Reynis and Jim Peach
The Federal Presence in New Mexico
Clearly, Los Alamos helped put New Mexico on the cutting edge in terms of technology, as did the addition of Sandia National Laboratory…and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base. These research institutions have large procurement budgets and have been sources of funding for many New Mexico suppliers and other businesses. And there is technology transfer from these powerhouse laboratories; patents are licensed and find commercial applications; private companies partner with the labs and develop new products, and lab scientists occasionally become entrepreneurs. But the promise of technology spinoffs has at best been only partially realized. The national laboratories, steeped from the beginning in secrecy, remain even today largely high-tech enclaves fenced off considerably from the rest of the New Mexico economy.
New Mexico Tourism
While tourism is one of New Mexico’s largest industries, it could be much larger; the state devotes few resources to attracting tourists from other states. New Mexico visitor centers and other facilities, as well as many state parks, need substantial improvements. Rest areas in New Mexico are few and far between, and many of them were constructed decades ago and are badly in need of modernization. The New Mexico Tourism Department and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs have small budgets, and the state tourism industry spends little on advertising. Expansion of the state tourism industry requires a healthier national economy and additional investments by the state.
Arts and Cultural Industries in New Mexico
Arts and cultural industries continue to be important to New Mexico’s economy. Narrowly defined, this industry employs over 40,000 people, including some 6,000 who are primarily employed as independent professional artists, writers and performers—the fourth-highest concentration in the United States. If one includes, in addition, those employed in cultural tourism, art and cultural education, and industries linked to the unique culture and heritage of the state, arts and cultural industries account for 10 percent of total New Mexico employment. Access to new technologies, like broadband, have the potential of giving New Mexico, as well as New Mexico artists and cultural workers, wider exposure outside the state, as well as access to global markets.
Tradition-Based, Culture-Based Economic Development – Henry Rael
Key elements of economic development approaches that…play to our assets include strategies that create and capture value for the state; initiatives that leverage our cultures, history and languages; structures that support alternative models of enterprise development; and approaches that make education directly relevant to our economic environment and what is happening in the world that our students inhabit. Projects and initiatives that find intersections among these elements will have the advantage of leveraging some of the most powerful—and often unrecognized—strengths that we have.
…According to the New Mexico State Extension Service, the market for fresh vegetables and fruit in the Albuquerque area is approximately $170 million per year, with the vast majority of these dollars leaving New Mexico in favor of out-of-state producers. A successful initiative that increased the share of the Albuquerque produce market supplied by New Mexico farmers would create value and capture it in the state. Two key challenges to making this happen include a lack of adequate local farming capacity and a local supply environment that is too disorganized and inefficient to supply our food-based businesses. Solutions to these challenges can be found in the culture and history of New Mexico.
New Mexico’s Dairy Industry
In the late 1980s, New Mexico made a deliberate attempt to develop an industrial cluster that would support an emerging dairy- and cheese-product industry, as well as produce a market for New Mexico alfalfa. The growth of the dairy industry explains about 80 percent of the growth in alfalfa production.
A 2005 report from New Mexico State University noted that New Mexico “has been one of the fastest growing dairy states.” According to the most recent data from the Dairy Producers of New Mexico, the state has “approximately 150 dairies and the largest average herd size (2088) in the nation.” In 2014 the state was ranked ninth for milk production and fifth for cheese.
There is no question that the dairy industry has brought economic benefits to the state. The question is at what cost. Tight regulation might minimize the threats of groundwater contamination. Unfortunately, production of milk and cheese based on alfalfa takes an enormous amount of water. In its milk and cheese exports, New Mexico is effectively exporting water.
Healthcare Services and Social Assistance in New Mexico:
The provision of needed healthcare services outside the major medical centers of Albuquerque, Río Rancho and Las Cruces remains a huge challenge. All but one of New Mexico’s counties are presently designated as underserved. Dr. Dan Derkson, formerly with UNM Health Services, has estimated that 400 new primary-care physicians are now needed in New Mexico. Attracting and training more mid-level health personnel will help but not solve that problem.
Small-town private doctors are a disappearing breed in New Mexico. In some areas, they have been replaced or augmented by the opening of new health centers, many of them federally qualified health centers. At the same time, some rural hospitals in the state are shutting down services such as labor and delivery, with some threatening to close their doors permanently as key funding sources disappear.
NEW MEXICO EDUCATION – Veronica García
I can say from my own experience that the nationally recognized education expert and advocate Diane Ravitch was right when she wrote, “We need broader and deeper thinking. We must decide if we truly want to eliminate poverty and establish equal educational opportunity. We must decide if we want to build a society with liberty and justice for all. If that is our true purpose, then we need to move on two fronts, changing society and improving schools at the same time.”
“Changing society” in New Mexico means, among other things and quite basically, that we must do something about poverty and inequality of income.
…It is clear that there is no simple, single solution to New Mexico’s education problems. We need a comprehensive approach. Education expert Pedro Noguera reports that in 2008 a coalition of scholars, policy makers and educational leaders issued a policy statement that called for three major revisions in education policy: Expand access to learning time through quality after-school and summer-school programs; provide universal pre-K programs; and provide universal healthcare for children. This reform was called the Broader, Bolder Approach (BBA) to education. The BBA reform agenda is part of a larger national effort to develop a comprehensive school-reform strategy and change the focus and direction of educational policy to include attention to the social and economic factors arising out of distressed social contexts within impoverished communities that often undermine schools and children.