Cabinet secretary: NM will succeed by ‘disrupting’ tradition

Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes gives a speech Tuesday at the Santa Ana Star Center.
(Amanda Britt/Rio Rancho Observer)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Doing things differently in New Mexico will bring business development to the state in upcoming years, according to the new state economic development secretary.

New Mexico Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes discussed future development and recruitment of businesses at the Sandoval Economic Alliance quarterly luncheon June 4 at the Santa Ana Star Center.

Focusing on the positive aspects of recent business development was a key part of her speech. She said people are starting to hear about New Mexico, and the state is closing a Local Economic Development Act deal a week.

“I think that we have really super-dynamic, intelligent people; and people are looking to move here because they’re sick of living in big cities, with the traffic and lack of space. People are very, very excited about New Mexico,” Keyes said.

Film and television, hemp production and space engineering are three target industries where New Mexico is expected to see major growth in coming years, she said.

The state announced the Rich Global Hemp deal — a $7 million investment with a corporation working with farmers in Las Cruces to help them buy hemp plants, plant and process the hemp and buy it back. They also did a $ 1.2 million LEDA deal in collaboration with New Mexico State University.

“We are seeing a lot of hemp deals,” said Keyes. “This is, as the governor likes to say, ‘It’s rope, not dope.’ This is something that’s going to be great for our agriculture communities — like Corrales.”

At Spaceport America in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin, a company called SpinLaunch is planning to build a centrifuge system that launches rockets into space with no fuel. The company will hire 30 people to work on the project. This, along with 100 more employees moving to Las Cruces to work for Virgin Galactic, will be a “huge win” for the southern part of New Mexico, Keyes said.

Netflix buying out Albuquerque Studios last year has changed the landscape for film and television, according to Keyes. She said Albuquerque Studios was an unused asset, but through research and knowledge in the film industry, she was able to identify which buyers were potentially a good fit.

“Netflix is a disrupter. They want to take on the studio system,” Keyes said. “Disney is doing roughly 15 to 16 movies a year — Netflix is doing 700.”

Keyes said she noticed New Mexico is home to disrupters — people who don’t do things in a traditional way. Examples include the Meow Wolf arts and entertainment company, and United, the professional soccer team.

“That is what is working in New Mexico — taking what is generally authentic to us,” she said. “We’re all here for a reason, and I know we can all kind of get negative about New Mexico, but we all choose to be here for a reason. It’s because we don’t want to do it like they’re doing it in New York. We don’t want to be crowded; we don’t want to be like Denver.”

Angela Ward, SEA board of directors chairwoman, said the most significant part of Keyes’ speech was that New Mexico must do things differently.

“We have to do things differently if we’re going to get different results,” Ward said. “We can see that that is already happening within New Mexico, and I would say that work is what we are committed to within Sandoval County, as a part of the state of New Mexico…

“We’re just trying to highlight who we are and draw businesses here for those things that are great about New Mexico.”