New Mexico governor reveals 20-year economic development plan

·4 min read

Oct. 27—Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released a 20-year strategic plan for New Mexico's economic development — one that concentrates on streamlining state regulations and creating better pathways from higher education to industry.

Flanked by three Cabinet members, Lujan Grisham revealed highlights of the blueprint Tuesday, noting her determination to remove "unnecessary" regulations.

"We will streamline regulations for business to do business," she said.

Linda Trujillo, superintendent of the state Regulations and Licensing Department, noted the goal to reduce the turnaround time to 21 days for construction permits in cities and counties across the state. Trujillo said the state intends to offer provisional licenses for mental health workers licensed in other states who move to New Mexico.

The strategic plan specifically focuses on the state's nine target industries for economic development: aerospace, biosciences, cybersecurity, film and television, outdoor recreation, sustainable and "value-added" agriculture (such as creating products like salsa and tortillas), intelligent manufacturing, global trade and sustainable and green energy.

Menlo Park, Calif.,-based SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute that supports government and industry, wrote the strategic plan in collaboration with several state departments and business leaders across the state.

Lujan Grisham is running for reelection next fall. State Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said she recognized a 20-year-plan is vulnerable to the goals and needs of future administrations. But she added state officials worked with a variety of parties in discussing the state's long-term needs.

"We collaborated with chambers of commerce and economic development offices across the state to get the buy-in," Keyes said.

Keyes will present the strategic plan, "Empower & Collaborate: New Mexico's Economic Path Forward," on Nov. 10 at a New Mexico Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"We have been working very closely with Secretary Keyes and her team," New Mexico Chamber CEO Rob Black said. "The report is very much aligned with the chamber's Driving New Mexico's Future report. How do we build jobs in new industry sectors is where we are very much aligned? [The governor's] executive order is an attempt to take a systemic approach at a broad swath of regulations."

Lujan Grisham wants to strengthen consumer protections but also make it easier to do business, which, she noted, could be seen by some as a contradiction.

"These are not mutually exclusive," she said more than once.

Keyes said the Economic Development Department will ask for $800,000 in recurring funding for private-sector business incubators, which have launched dozens of tech companies in Santa Fe in the past 25 years.

Over the past 20-plus years, universities across the country have tailored majors and courses to directly fill the needs of industry jobs. The state's universities and community colleges, with more than 106,000 students, also have collaborated with industry to tailor courses. But state officials want more effective results.

"We have to better work with industry," Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. "We are doing OK, but we can do better. We do it for two-year and four-year degrees and graduate degrees. We don't do it for certificates. The gap is certificates. For every Ph.D, there are 10 team members helping them accomplish their work."

The SRI report notes data indicates "a mismatch in the skills of New Mexico's workers and the skills in demand by the state's employers. ... Many of New Mexico's higher education and training institutions are increasingly disconnected from the needs of industry."

The report describes six challenges for New Mexico, including a lack of collaboration in economic development; higher education; attracting and retaining talent; not including socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in planning; national laboratory domination in the innovation ecosystem; focusing on too few key industries.

The overarching philosophy, coined as JEDI, spells out as Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusive.

The Rust movie shooting that left a woman dead and involved actor/producer Alec Baldwin was addressed as movies and television are one of the state's target industries. New Mexico is becoming a leading production center alongside Hollywood, New York City and Georgia.

"Our expectation is the industry will step up [to improve safety]," Lujan Grisham said. "If the industry doesn't come forward, they should expect state regulations."

Keyes said she believes New Mexico can play a leading role in redefining movie industry safety across the country.

"We should emerge as a leader as the safest place to do film," Keyes said. "Hollywood filming was very safe here [from COVID-19] during the pandemic. We want this to be a destination for people want to go to."

The strategic plan was funded with $1.5 million in the state's allocation of federal CARES Act funding.

"This is not a final product," Keyes said. "This is a road map. This is a call from the state."

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