Dec. 03--If House Speaker Kenny Martinez learned one thing as co-chairman of the legislative Jobs Council, it is that the old ways of doing economic development in New Mexico are not good enough.
Martinez and others on the committee are now preaching an "economic architecture" that can move the state forward. It is a phrase coined by Mark Lautman, the economist who heads Lautman Economic Architecture and has been compiling data and advising lawmakers about potential growth policies.
For Martinez, a Democrat from Grants, it is no longer just about tourism or the spaceport or about energy or health care, but about looking at integrating policies that can better target economic sectors, regions and growth goals. At a Monday meeting of the Jobs Council in Santa Fe, for instance, he said no effort can succeed without patching the needs of the technical workforce with education, infrastructure and housing.
The shortage of housing in oil-patch areas as Eddy and Lee counties might be stifling employment there, for instance, while slow broadband connections in rural areas, and railway spurs along the border might affect job-growth in those locations.
The idea of putting incentives or infrastructure in place without coordination has to change. "We believe, if you built it, they will come -- they don't," Martinez said.
That Jobs Council has a goal of 160,000 jobs in the next 10 years as that is what is needed "to get the state back on the road to prosperity," Lautman told lawmakers. To achieve that, he said, New Mexico has "to breakdown silos between workforce development, education and higher education," and move forward with an integrated strategy.
The path forward will not be easy.
Before the 2013 legislative session, New Mexico was dead last in job growth over the previous 34 months. Recent numbers do show some growth -- with help from tourism, construction and health care, which is growing in part from a decision by Gov. Susana Martinez to expand Medicaid in step with the federal Affordable Care Act. That policy alone is estimated to add 23,000 jobs to the New Mexico workforce.
From August 2012 to August 2013, New Mexico was 13th in the U.S. in the percentage of jobs added, growing the workforce by 1.8 percent, according to figures compiled by Economic Development Secretary Jon Barlea.
And data for October show a year-over-year gain of 1,900 jobs statewide -- better than a year ago but still a long way from what the Jobs Council says is needed to reach prerecession levels.
At Monday's meeting, the Jobs Council didn't finalize its recommendations to the 2014 Legislature but discussed some philosophical issues and draft bills that would both fund some ongoing initiatives and create new ones. The council includes member of the House, Senate as well as the business community.
Some of the new measures being discussed include:
--A pilot project aimed at nurturing the "solo workforce" those who start work in New Mexico, but are not attached to a specific company.
--Creating a statewide task force to assess the emerging opportunities in nuclear energy and support services.
--Forming a task force to to help New Mexico companies capture an increasing share of health care contract work and develop a statewide fund to target expansion of the health care workforce.
--More help for small businesses that want to export products internationally.
--Better support for regional efforts with regards to forest restoration, bio mass and wood manufacturing.
--Creating a discretionary fund to close the deal on important economic development projects.
The council also hopes to capture better analytics on county-level jobs and the economy so it can identify what is working, not working and what jobs are going unfilled, as well as the skills or educational level it would take to do them.
Contact Bruce Krasnow at email@example.com.
(c)2013 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Lawmakers seek to create 160,000 jobs over 10 years
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