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Business advocacy group rebrands itself, announces goals

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New Mexico’s statewide business advocacy group announced a new name and brand on Wednesday and also identified five major goals it will work on to help the state’s economy recover from the pandemic and grow in the years ahead.

The New Association for Commerce and Industry has become the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, according to an announcement by the group following its annual FOCUS legislative event in Albuquerque.

The group also worked with a consulting firm — Economic Leadership headed by Ted Abernathy — to develop a statewide action plan for its work that will help inform its 2021 legislative priorities. The plan is outlined in a report called, “Driving New Mexico’s Future: Empowering a Competitive Economy in a Post-Pandemic World, 2020.”

“New Mexico and the nation are at a turning point. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many economic vulnerabilities for our country and for New Mexico,” said Rob Black, president and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce. “With over 40% of New Mexico’s state budget tied to the oil and gas industry, and a limited number of economic-based jobs, New Mexico must take concrete steps to recover, as well as grow and diversify the economy for the future.”

According to the report, the New Mexico economy has ranked in the bottom third of U.S. states from 2009 to 2019 in terms of wage growth and growth in the gross domestic product. The report does indicate that progress has been made in terms of workforce training, tools to help economic developers recruit businesses and tax policies.

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The goals that public entities and private enterprises need to work on together to improve the state’s economy, according to the group’s report, are 1) increasing skilled workers in the labor pool; 2) making the regulatory environment more friendly to business; 3) improving the state’s infrastructure to meet businesses’ and residents’ needs; 4) prioritizing and emphasizing entrepreneurship; and 5) aligning the efforts of business, higher education and government agencies to grow the economy and increase residents’ prosperity.

Legislative efforts could include such initiatives as tax credits for businesses that recruit employees in needed fields and for the employees themselves; relocation grants; additional higher education scholarship programs; new legislation to authorize public-private partnerships for the building of internet networks or other needed infrastructure; a rural economic development grant program; and funds for entrepreneurial initiatives.