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Collawn bullish on economic growth in NM

So what do CEOs and other power players around the country think of New Mexico?

“Most of them just don’t think much about New Mexico at all. Most of them have never been here,” says Pat Collawn, chairman and CEO of PNM Resources and the person appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to chair the New Mexico Partnership – the state’s economic development marketing arm.

“Some years ago, we had a group of bankers out here for a meeting and they were stunned,” Collawn said. “Like wow, it’s beautiful. You have space. You can get a good-sized house. You’ve got all this great stuff.”

Pushing economic development in New Mexico has always been an uphill slog, but some hope that landing Facebook’s massive data storage project in Los Lunas could change that.

The governor, then-Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, Collawn and others worked hard on the project, with PNM playing a key role because Facebook wanted green power and PNM will provide it. Lawmakers and regulators also moved quickly to make the deal happen.

“I think it’s a big deal because it has put us on the radar screen of people that wouldn’t look at us before,” Collawn said. “We are seeing a lot of inquiries because of Facebook.”

The Partnership is a legislative creation that tries to drum up interest in projects statewide that fit different locales – from Albuquerque to Taos to Clayton.

“Everybody wants the 2,000-person, $150,000-a-year job manufacturing plant but you have to be practical about where that’s going to go,” she said.

“I think sometimes as a state we are divided about whether we really want growth,” she says. “We have a mentality of scarcity rather than a mentality of abundance and in my opinion we need to grow the pie. We want to grow the state. We want more tax revenue. We want more customers. We want more people instead of saying this is all we have so let’s figure out how to divide it up.”

Bringing those businesses does require incentives, she says.

The success with Facebook, she says, proves we are up to the challenge.

“To me it shows that when people have a common goal to get something done in this state, we can get it done.”