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Pearce calls for increased investment in local firms

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U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican, speaks at a gubernatorial candidate forum in March sponsored by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL

In a speech drawing on his own blue-collar background, Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce said Monday that he would push the state to invest more in promising local companies as part of a plan to keep them in New Mexico and promote economic growth.

And he called a surprise guest up to the podium during his speech – Jeff Apodaca, a Democrat who lost a campaign for his party’s gubernatorial nomination last month.

Apodaca didn’t endorse Pearce, and he said he would push both Pearce and the Democratic nominee, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, to commit to “investing in New Mexico.”

But he met with Pearce recently for two hours to talk jobs and the economy, he said, and “I think he has a pretty good plan.”

Pearce, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t let New Mexico’s $220 million investment in Spaceport America go to waste. He said the Roswell boneyard for old airplanes has unrealized economic potential. And he floated a variety of other ideas aimed at promoting job growth and addressing poverty in one of the poorest states in the nation.

Pearce, a congressman from Hobbs, drew on his own background during the 30-minute speech, suggesting his own dad hadn’t realized his dream of becoming a veterinarian, instead working two jobs, because he didn’t trust himself.

“I grew up in fear,” Pearce told about 40 business leaders invited to hear him speak in Downtown Albuquerque. “… Eventually, I said, ‘I’m not going to live in the shadows. I’m not going to live afraid.’ So I stepped out. It is that grit and determination that are going to be the hallmarks of a Pearce administration.”

As part of his economic plan, he said, he would work with the State Investment Council to help finance businesses in New Mexico. There is about $100 million more that could be invested in local companies, Pearce said.

He said he would focus on the “middle round of financing” – when local businesses have a proven concept but need funding to hire employees and get their product to market.

It’s at that stage, he said, that companies often leave New Mexico to find capital elsewhere.

Lujan Grisham unveiled her economic plan during the primary campaign. Her proposals include raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour and eliminating or lifting the cap on spending for film tax incentives.

Campaign spokesman James Hallinan said Lujan Grisham has “real, detailed solutions,” in contrast with Pearce.

“After developing 12 detailed policy plans to make New Mexico a safer and more prosperous place,” Hallinan said, “Michelle Lujan Grisham is glad to see Steve Pearce has finally taken the time to read her plans and seems to have endorsed many of her ideas. However, just reciting a few talking points is not what it’s going to take to grow and diversify New Mexico’s economy.”

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