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Staying connected to youth

Our high school children are leaving the state for colleges in Europe. They loved their time at APS schools, have many friends here and appreciate the unique culture, climate, community service opportunities and welcoming spirit that is New Mexico. They were born here and have a strong emotional connection, but are keen to test themselves in competitive global universities and markets.

We doubt they have on their radar a plan to return to N.M., or look after aging parents. But they might, if made aware of opportunities, after they’ve acquired marketable skills elsewhere that the state needs. Or they might wish to invest from afar in N.M. projects dear to them.

Much time, effort and money is spent on creating “enabling” conditions for N.M.’s youth to stay. City and state officials should also consider ways to facilitate ties with those who have left, and institutionalize relationships with its “diaspora” in ways that support state development priorities.

Experience elsewhere suggests there is value in looking at ways to systematically facilitate ties with those who have left. Countries like Armenia have ministry level diaspora departments that played a key role in post Soviet revitalization. Today the capital Yerevan is a bustling chic international city marketing its historic treasures, café/pub life, and proximity to its world class ski resort at Tsaghkadzor.

The Armenian diaspora in Los Angeles has been central to the region’s prosperity.

At the state level, Gujarat in India, keeps a database of diaspora technical skills, that it marries with local employment and investment opportunities.

Mexico has a “Tres por Uno” – 3 x 1 – matching program where municipalities match $3 to a $1 diaspora investment in targeted local public improvement projects.

India and Israel have raised billions of dollars through their diaspora bond initiatives.

Even tiny Rwanda has a diaspora department that recently facilitated subsidized infrastructure for a 72 unit multifamily housing development.

New Mexico can learn from successful initiatives developed elsewhere. Commitments made by New Mexicans who have left are likely to be more enduring than from out-of-state investors enticed by tax breaks.