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Keller, Johnson release plans for jobs, economy

Albuquerque mayoral candidate Tim Keller speaks to AFSCME and other city union members on Aug. 10. ABQ Forward Together, a measure finance committee, has raised more than $100,000 to help Keller, the city’s only publicly financed candidate for mayor. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

State Auditor Tim Keller released his jobs plan on Tuesday, and it calls for investing in the growth of local businesses, focusing on sectors that can put Albuquerque on the map and hiring local firms for city contracts.

“I want to aim every economic development tool we’ve got at growing companies that are already here and on investing in programs and assets that are already inside city limits like the rail yards and like our innovation corridor,” Keller, one of eight candidates on the mayoral ballot, said during a news conference in Downtown Albuquerque.

Keller said Albuquerque still needs to do what it can to try to lure large out-of-state companies, but he said the city’s economic development department needs to change its focus and put tax increment districts, industrial revenue bonds and other resources in play for local businesses, such as a company that wants to invest in the rail yard and make it an asset for Albuquerque or a tech transfer company.

“I want to invest and focus on where we are winning, and that is in areas in the biotech drug manufacturing … and also around directed energy and micro-electronics,” Keller said. “These are industries where we literally have a fighting chance to be a national leader in something.”

He said the city also needs to do a better job of selecting local companies for city contracts, noting that his office found that $20 million in city contracts go out of state. He said he also wants to expand the innovation economy, prepare local talent and champion cultural and natural assets.

Johnson’s plan

Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, another mayoral candidate, has also released his economic development and job creation strategy.

Wayne Johnson

“My philosophy is to provide a secure environment and a light touch on regulation that encourages businesses to invest in Albuquerque,” Johnson said in a news release. “If we, as a community, want a prosperous Albuquerque then we must encourage innovation and creativity by empowering the dreamers and the doers.”

He said he would use a pre-approved incentive packages program that would make land use and incentive package processes easier to navigate.

“The pre-approved incentives would be tied to land use and/or specific properties and the packages would set specific job creation objectives, claw back provisions, minimum project investment, and timelines which create reliable and dependable economic practices,” he said.

Johnson said he would also focus on tech transfer.

“As the home of Sandia National Labs, the Air Force Research Lab, the UNM Science and Technology Center, and proximity to New Mexico Tech and Los Alamos Labs — New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular — should be a leading national center for tech transfer,” he said.

Among the other elements in Johnson’s plan are: rebuilding and expanding the city’s manufacturing base; streamlining entitlement and permitting processes; having the economic development department review city policies; reducing taxes and regulations on the business community; supporting and expanding international trade; and taking a regional approach to economic development.

Four Catholic priests endorse Garcia Holmes

Michelle Garcia Holmes

Mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes announced this week that she has received the endorsement of four Catholic priests: Stephen Imbarrato, a national pro-life activist and Albuquerque resident, Leo Padget, from Saint Bernadette Catholic Parish, Rick Zerwas, from Sacred Heart Catholic Parish, and John Carney, a retired priest.

“It is my honor to stand up for life with Catholic priests from our city and to receive a blessing from them,” Garcia Holmes said in her release.

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