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Funds sought to bring jobs, businesses to NM

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The New Mexico Economic Development Department intends to ask state legislators to provide more than $47 million in funding during the 2021 legislative session to help attract more jobs and businesses to the state in coming years.

Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes made a presentation Tuesday to the Interim Economic and Rural Development Committee of the New Mexico Legislature.

She said severe budget cuts in prior years and a reliance on the oil and gas industry in the state have hurt economic growth.

“We would urge you today that coming out of this recession is not a time to cut back on economic development investments,” Keyes said. “We did an analysis that showed that the lack of investment in economic development after the last recession (in 2008 and 2009) led to $10 billion to $15 billion less in GDP (gross domestic product) than New Mexico would have achieved with the trajectory that New Mexico had been on.”

She said she anticipated asking for $7 million for the Jobs Training Incentive Program, $30 million for Local Economic Development Act funds and $10 million for the New Mexico Main Street program, which she said is essential for recruiting or building businesses in smaller communities.

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She also plans to ask for an unspecified allocation for the department’s new Outdoor Recreation Division.

A consultant working with the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, Ted Abernathy of Economic Leadership LLC, agreed that the funds are necessary to recruit jobs and businesses.

“We did not do an analysis of your incentive programs, but I agree completely with the secretary that without them you are tying her hands,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of people are offering incentives, and they are key to finishing second, third or fourth or winning. You don’t always have to be the highest in an incentives game, but you have to have some tools.”

Keyes said that the funds were crucial during the past two years to help the state attract eight businesses or keep them in New Mexico for their expansions. Those included two in the Roswell area, Sceye Inc., a new venture that is developing a stratospheric airship at a hangar at the Roswell Air Center as well as at facilities in Moriarty, and Ascent Aviation Services of Arizona, which just announced its intentions to build a hangar in Roswell and hire 100 to 120 aviation mechanics or support staff a year after its completion and as many as 360 people within five years.

Keyes said that JTIP and LEDA funds were instrumental in creating 1,219 jobs during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, or July through September 2020. During that quarter, JTIP also helped train 1,253 people for new jobs, with 420 trained in rural areas.

Since January 2019, JTIP provided money to train 4,438 workers and create 4,012 new jobs, including 1,615 in rural areas.

LEDA funds since January 2019 have invested $35.1 million in 23 companies located in 11 communities and have led to annual payrolls of more than $250 million and an expected 10-year economic impact of $4.5 billion.

One legislator, Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said, however, that she thinks legislators need to look specifically at whether the funds are being well used, how competitive they have made New Mexico compared to other states, and whether the incentive programs are benefiting all areas of the state.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.