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Municipal League speaker previews future of state

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Dale R. Dekker shares his insight on how technology will impact the future of New Mexico as the keynote speaker for the New Mexico Municipal League’s 61st annual conference on Wednesday. Mayor Dennis Kintigh, President Richard Cordova (mayor of Eagle Nest and NMML immediate past president), Cynthia Ann Bettison (NMML vice president and mayor pro tem of Silver City), and Neil Segotta (mayor pro tem of Raton) sits on the stage of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center. David Izraelevitz, (NMML president-elect and councilor of the city and county of Los Alamos) was present — but is not visible in this photo. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Dale R. Dekker, an Albuquerque-based architect and planner, asked all of the city officials in the main hall of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center to envision the future of New Mexico and how it would affect how they would run their cities during the New Mexico Municipal League conference on Wednesday.

In his PowerPoint presentation, Dekker pointed out a cactus in bloom, a Zuni Sunface pendant and a micromachine designed at Sandia National Labs “that is 1/1000 diameter of human hair.” He said each of these items represents what he called the state’s trifecta — nature, culture and technology.

“We need to be confident about our state,” Dekker said. “We need to take pride in our state. We need to tell people that we are a great place to live. Yes, we have problems, but by golly, we’ve got the collective wisdom in this room to solve those problems — and it is through your actions that really, what we can do is celebrate what makes New Mexico — New Mexico.”

Facts of New Mexico

From a survey, Dekker pointed out the data showed that only 28 percent of citizens said they would recommend New Mexico as a great place to live. He said this confidence problem can be solved by growing the internal public relations campaign.

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Focusing on the reality of the state, Dekker shared facts that New Mexico is the fifth-largest state in the country and on the Fortune 500 list, the total economy would be about $4.8 billion (No. 27 on the list). He also said the state is consistently ranked No. 47 by Forbes for states to start businesses.

He reminded the state of the $1.2 million surplus from oil production as reported in The Taos News by Alex Oxford on Thursday.

For another fact, Dekker said the state is ranked second for the number of species of birds in the nation; he said there are over 500 alone in New Mexico. Dekker said New Mexico needs to attract bird-watching baby boomers and he shared that 39 million retirees fit into this category and can be brought into New Mexico attracted by the nature and climate.

Comparing the state to a hole in a donut because of its central location, Dekker said the primary population of the state is baby boomers and the state is experiencing the largest out-migration of millennials in the country, which he said was “a big concern.” He shared another concern in that New Mexico is now ranked 50 for state safety for overall child well-being and that significant amount of general budget goes to K-12 education.

A whole new future 

“Sixty-five percent of those people are going to have jobs that don’t exist today,” Dekker said of the expected 1.2 million people in 2035. “That’s a huge undertaking from an education system that really is built on maintaining the status quo — and we as New Mexicans should be very concerned about how we work to change that status quo. What’s driving this is technology.”

Dekker said trends in robotics and artificial intelligence will influence “where we live, work, play” and can provide huge opportunities for the state of New Mexico and its workforce. He also included the 3-D printing industrial revolution, the Internet of Things agenda (IoT), smart sensors and autonomous (driverless) vehicles.

He said each step and progression in technology has changed the world and how humans live in it. He also said 65 percent of all the jobs by 2020 will require an associate’s degree or higher and 50 percent of jobs in 2020 can be done by a robot. With this in mind, Dekker said these progressions will create a “whole new workforce and whole new set of goals.

After sharing this information, he encouraged the audience to think about the speed at which information is communicated today. He explained that first generation (1G) cellphones could be compared to a crawling baby and modern cellphones are at 4G or “five times faster than the fastest jet built by man. He said one iPhone 7 has more processing abilities than the entire processing NASA had in 1969.

“It’s going to do amazing things to our cities and our villages and our towns,” he said. “This is not just a big city thing. This is something that will change the landscape for everything — law enforcement, education, healthcare, utility systems, your buildings to save energy — all of this ubiquitous connection is going to lead to a whole new form of the way we live.

“This is what the future is going to be and they’re already thinking about it. It’s going to be there and it’s coming at us soon  — and we need to figure that out because it is a huge opportunity for our state.”

Destination Space

Dekker is also a founding member of the ambassadors for Spaceport America and he wants New Mexico to be ready when NBC hosts a three-hour broadcast of the Virgin Galactic flight in Upham, New Mexico, in the first quarter of 2019. He said this moment could be the state’s “Olympic moment” or “Woodstock moment” if 60,000 people show up to watch this flight into space.

He said the state needs to capitalize on the $329 billion global industry of space, of which $253 billion is commercial rather than governmental. The space industry is predicted to be a $3 trillion industry in 30 years, according to Dekker.

From the technological advances, he said every place on earth will have the same level of connectivity, including rural communities and small towns. With opportunities in space mining and fast space travel to other points on earth, Dekker asked the audience to consider what impact technology will have on the future of the state and how it can be implemented now.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it. I think that’s where New Mexico is. We’re at a fork in the road. One (fork) is status quo and the other one is the future.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.