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New study of Santa Teresa maps out opportunities, challenges

SANTA TERESA — A new study examines the region that is home to New Mexico’s busiest border crossing and an economic engine for trade with Mexico.

In addition to pointing out opportunities for development, it highlights challenges and constraints on growth, including the need to create “value- added jobs,” raise educational attainment levels and manage sustainability issues like the shared aquifer that straddles the border in the desert region.

“The primary benefit of this study is it clarifies a lot of the development and trade significance at the state level as well as the regional level,” said the study’s author Patrick Schaefer, executive director of the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The report relied on data from the state of New Mexico, the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies to chart key regional trends shaping the transcontinental trade corridor that cuts through southern New Mexico.

“For the first time ever, there’s a systematic mapping of one of these border communities and the border region on the New Mexico-Chihuahua border,” said Schaefer. The Journal got an exclusive preview of the study that is to be released Wednesday.

It includes data on land ownership, population, educational attainment, employment, wages, business activity, manufacturing output, water and energy resources as well as border trade.

“The Hunt Institute’s Santa Teresa report, for the first time, provides a clear, accessible framework for our communities and our state to understand what is happening,” said Randy Trask, president of the New Mexico International Trade Alliance. “It is a vital tool in helping our state develop a cohesive, statewide economic development strategy, that brings together the assets of northern and southern New Mexico.”

Since the Santa Teresa Port of Entry opened 26 years ago, southern New Mexico has experienced unprecedented growth and trade. The massive Foxconn plant that manufactures computer components for Dell opened its doors in San Jeronimo, Mexico, in 2009. In 2012, Union Pacific chose Santa Teresa for a new intermodal facility near the port of entry, investing more than $450 million in the operation.

More than half of all imports and exports into Mexico come through the Santa Teresa border crossing, according to the Department of Commerce.

And although Albuquerque and San Antonio, Texas, are about the same distance from the border, their perceptions are vastly different, Trask said. The Texas city touts itself as the gateway to Mexico, but “If you go around and ask people (in Albuquerque) if we were close to the border nobody would recognize that,” said Trask.

Schaefer hopes the study will help all New Mexicans understand the economic significance of being a border state.

“It’s going to help Northern New Mexico connect more strongly with the southern part of New Mexico,” said Schaefer.