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A big change, but feeling welcome

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I may have been here for only two months, but that’s long enough to begin recognizing the many similarities between my new home state of New Mexico and my previous home state of New Hampshire.

In no particular order, then:

1. They both have “New” in their names.

2. Ummm …

3. Hmmm …

4. See 2 and 3.

OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it’s hard to ignore some of the stark differences between the two states since my wife and I arrived here on one-way Southwest Airlines tickets at the end of June to begin my new job as the assistant business editor at the Journal .

The most obvious, of course, is the sheer size of the state. You can fit 13 New Hampshires – the fifth-smallest state in the union – inside New Mexico, the fifth-largest state.

Then there is the climate. To be fair, the four seasons in New Hampshire are tough to beat, but so is New Mexico’s average of nearly 300 days with sun per year.

I’ve also learned the two states are at opposite ends of many social and economic measures. Consider these differences, based on the most recent 2012 Census Bureau estimates:

⋄  While New Hampshire has become more diverse in recent years, it has a tiny Hispanic population of only 3 percent and a Native American presence of 0.3 percent. In New Mexico – a majority-minority state – Hispanics make up 47 percent of the population, while Native Americans account for 10.2 percent.

⋄  The median household income from 2007 to 2011 was $64,664 in New Hampshire, compared with New Mexico’s $44,631 and the national average of $52,762.

⋄  And the percentage of individuals living below the poverty level during that period was only 8 percent in New Hampshire, compared with a rate of 19 percent in New Mexico. The national average was 14.3 percent.

But perhaps the most striking difference of all was the ranking of the two states in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count report, which tracks the well-being of children around the country.

Anecdotally, this point was driven home the day we boarded our flight to Albuquerque, which is when the Casey Foundation announced its findings for 2013.

While checking my Twitter feed, I noticed two related items – one right above the other. The first was that New Hampshire had retained its No. 1 ranking in the Kids Count survey; the second was that New Mexico had fallen from 49th to 50th.

Still, numbers and rankings aside, there are some similarities between the two states.

As the assistant business editor, I’ve come to realize that business leaders in Albuquerque are just as engaged and committed to the betterment of their community as their counterparts 2,200 miles away in Nashua, N.H.

During my two months here, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several dozen of them – at business events, in their offices, over lunch – and left each of those encounters with a sense they deeply care about their community.

They also have been extremely warm and welcoming to the new guy with the Boston accent – or so I’m told – which is in keeping with the wonderful reception we’ve received here ever since our arrival.

As an example, we ended up living at a Residence Inn for two weeks while waiting for our possessions to arrive from Hudson, N.H. That meant the dozen or so plants and small trees at our new Albuquerque home were left to fend for themselves in extreme drought conditions – or so we thought.

When our next-door neighbor walked over to introduce herself on moving day, she not only welcomed us to the neighborhood, but she also informed us that she had been watering our plants every other day ever since the previous owners moved out.

And if that weren’t enough, she returned several hours later with a half-gallon of Blue Bell ice cream, a treat not available to us back in New Hampshire.

Surely, there are many things we miss back East, starting with family, friends, my former colleagues at The Telegraph and even the financial advantages of living in a no-sales-tax, no-income-tax state. (In case you are wondering, roughly one-half of the state’s unrestricted revenues are derived from business taxes, state property taxes, and meal and room taxes.)

But we’re feeling pretty welcomed here. After all, it’s not every day a complete stranger waters your plants and delivers ice cream to your front door.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Nick Pappas at 823-3847 or npappas@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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