SANTA FE – New Mexico would bolster job training, better align its higher educational programs with the needs of employers and dedicate more money for business development efforts under a new 20-year economic plan unveiled Tuesday.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and several Cabinet officials in her administration said the plan could help stem a “brain drain” of young people leaving New Mexico and attract out-of-state residents looking for good-paying jobs.
“A lot of these ideas aren’t really new, but they are being supercharged in a way our business partners have been requesting for decades,” Lujan Grisham said during a Tuesday news conference at the state Capitol.
The governor also signed an executive order aimed at reducing red tape in the state’s occupational licensing processes – the latest attempt to make the state more business friendly.
The order directs the state Regulation and Licensing Department to identify rules or requirements that impose an “unnecessary regulatory burden” on the public by mid-December, but stipulates any changes should not compromise consumer protection.
The targeted fields could include construction, cosmetology and mental health providers, with the licensing period for such officials possibly being extended from one year to three years, Regulation and Licensing Superintendent Linda Trujillo said.
“Removing red tape and bureaucracy is probably the best way to tell entrepreneurs we want you to do well in our state,” Lujan Grisham added.
While New Mexico has posted recent job growth, the state’s population increased by just 2.8% since 2010 – to slightly more than 2.1 million people as of 2020 – and is growing at a much slower clip than other states in the region.
Given that backdrop, the state Economic Development Department hired nonprofit research firm SRI International earlier this year to conduct stakeholder interviews and help develop a strategy.
The 384-page document was paid for out of a $1.5 million federal grant and identifies five key challenges for New Mexico – ranging from misalignment between higher education and industry to the dominance of the public sector in the state’s innovation ecosystem – that have contributed to some of the state’s economic woes, including low wages and slow labor force growth compared to neighboring states.
In addition to taking a statewide look, the document examines challenges and opportunities in different regions of New Mexico, looking at details from affordable housing in Santa Fe to transportation infrastructure in Las Cruces.
The plan also establishes six main strategies to help alleviate those challenges, including modernizing the state’s economic development framework, adding capacity for New Mexico’s cities, towns and tribal communities and reforming workforce training efforts.
“These recommendations are best viewed as a roadmap, one that enables New Mexico to build upon its current momentum to create a robust, diverse economy that provides greater opportunities for residents and businesses of New Mexico’s urban, rural, and tribal communities,” the study reads.
The 20-year plan and executive order were lauded Tuesday by business leaders, some of whom attended the governor’s news conference.
“We believe that by reducing the regulatory burden on individuals and small businesses, we increase access to the economy for all New Mexicans, especially for those communities who have been historically disenfranchised and excluded,” said Rob Black, president and CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce.
Journal staff writer Stephen Hamway contributed to this report.