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AED planning effort will eye ABQ’s competitiveness

Danielle Casey

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With a new president onboard, Albuquerque Economic Development will begin a planning project next week to determine how the city can better compete with its peers.

Danielle Casey, who replaced Gary Tonjes as AED’s president in October, acknowledged during the Economic Forum of Albuquerque’s meeting Wednesday that the city lags behind its neighbors in growing certain key industries. However, she said Albuquerque has momentum and appeal as people look to leave crowded cities in the wake of the pandemic.

Having an updated strategic plan, Casey said, will help the organization determine whether the growth sectors it’s targeted in the past are the right choices, and understand what other mid-sized cities are doing well.

“We want to determine how competitive we really are,” Casey said.

Casey, who worked most recently for the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, said Albuquerque saw a 24% decline in information-sector jobs in the previous five years, and has lagged behind cities like Phoenix in job growth in professional, scientific and technical services. Casey said Albuquerque improved its job total in that industry by 23% in the past two decades, while Phoenix increased by 52% over the same period.

“These are things we’re going to be thinking about in our strategy,” she said.

Still, Casey said Albuquerque has plenty of momentum with new arrivals to the city. She pointed to a 2019 study from United Van Lines, which noted that more people moved to the city than away from it that year. With more businesses and employees looking at remote-work opportunities, Casey said the city has a chance to capitalize on interest from crowded Western cities, including Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity … in LA and the Bay Area,” she said.

Casey added that she would love to see a concerted strategy to lure remote workers to Albuquerque, pointing to the success that cities like Tulsa have had with incentive programs and other efforts designed to attract remote workers.

“I’d love to make sure we go further,” Casey said.

Casey acknowledged that she’s new to Albuquerque, and said she will have a better idea of where the city can better compete once the strategic planning process begins. AED is planning on beginning the process with a webinar next Thursday, and will present the plan approximately 16 weeks later.

“We are not doing this to reinvent the wheel and re-do really great research,” Casey said.


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