News Column

Santa Fe's Economy Boosted By Tourism, Hospitality

Oct. 31, 2012

Bruce Krasnow

Santa Fe's economy is still being buoyed by a boost in tourism and hospitality -- and thanks to a stabilization in the government sector, the region is doing better than the rest of New Mexico, according to the Department of Workforce Solutions.

The state released its September Labor Market Review on Friday and reports that while New Mexico as a whole lost 9,200 jobs over the past 12 months, Santa Fe gained 1,300 jobs -- a boost of 2.1 percent. The private sector did better, a 3.1 percent increase. The Albuquerque area lost 3,100 jobs, while both Las Cruces and Farmington each lost 1,500.

Leading the charge in Santa Fe is tourism, which includes jobs in hotels, restaurants and hospitality. The county saw 1,000 more jobs from last September, an increase of almost 11 percent.

The other area that continues to grow is health care and private education; that sector added another 400 jobs, with retail trade growing by 200 jobs. And for once, the increases were not wiped out by losses elsewhere -- usually that's in government and construction. According to the September data, both sectors did lose jobs, but just fewer than 100 in each sector.

Statewide, New Mexico also saw a big jump in tourism-related and health care jobs but also continued to have losses in construction, which declined by 3,000, and government, which declined 5,100 on all levels but with the bulk of the losses (4,000) coming in state government.

Economists have noted that the construction sector in New Mexico is very closely tied to government spending for infrastructure, water and school projects. So, unless more tax money is spent on public construction projects -- and several proposals are on the Nov. 6 ballot for more public capital projects -- then the state is unlikely to see a rebound anytime soon with just private spending by businesses and homeowners.

New Mexico's lackluster growth is especially startling compared with the rest of the United States. It is one of just a few states where economic activity has declined in the past three months, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's Coincident Index of state economic data. The color chart of all 50 states can be seen here -- coincident/2012/coincidentindexes0912.pdf. Christus Health Systems, which has been in an expansion mode, recently sold its interest in one of its larger hospitals -- Baptist St. Anthony in Amarillo. The 451-bed hospital averages some 20,000 admissions with 5,731 inpatient and 6,761 outpatient surgeries, according to data from U.S. News. Christus sold its 80 percent ownership to Ardent Health Services, the same for-profit company that owns Lovelace Health Systems.

Ardent will own 80 percent of the Amarillo facility while Baptist Community Services maintains the remainder of shares, according to the Dallas Business Journal.

Meanwhile, Presbyterian Espanola Hospital has completed its new expansion and held a grand opening Saturday of its new patient tower.

"The Patient Tower features 34 private rooms with natural light, sound-resistant ceilings and more space so that family members are able to support and contribute to the healing process. Patients will stay in the same room regardless of acuity throughout their stay. The two-story tower will provide an additional 55,000 square feet to the hospital, which will result in a more streamlined health-care delivery system for patients through prompt, bedside care," according to a Presbyterian news release.

The hospital is licensed for 80 beds and, with 337 employees, has an annual payroll of $30 million, according to the company.

Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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