Momentum. Partnership. Openness.
Those are some of the words used to describe the Albuquerque region by a panel of national site consultants who spoke at the Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance quarterly event Thursday at Electric Playhouse.
The event, attended by roughly 100 business leaders in the state, featured site consultants from across the country – including Tess Fay, principal for GLS Consultants; Laura Gourley, west region director of Grant Thornton’s State and Local Tax practice; Gregg Healy, executive vice president of Savills; and Jeff Pappas, a site consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the Dallas area.
While the panelists agreed the Albuquerque region — and even New Mexico as a whole — has a lot of potential in attracting businesses to expand here, they said the area needs to create an identity for itself, involve the community and focus on smaller opportunities for business expansion.
“You have to really know who you are,” Pappas told attendees at the event. “You have to be able to sell yourself.”
The panelists fielded questions ranging from how they would go about attracting business expansion if they were the “tzar” of the state, to what is needed to help make the region an attractive place, and even what economic developers at all levels can do to incentivize out-of-state businesses to locate here.
Gourley said regions around the country that find success are usually able to do so because of their leadership’s ability to be creative, and by also including incentives such as workforce training, offsetting property taxes and expediting permitting.
“Think outside the box,” Gourley said.
The Albuquerque region has done just that. A combination of state, local and organizational leadership has helped the area in the past year create nearly 2,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in capital investment through announced expansions. That includes development by Manna Capital Partners, which is building an aluminum manufacturing facility in Los Lunas in partnership with Ball Corp. The project, which was announced in May, is expected to bring about 950 jobs to Valencia County.
But the expertise of the four panelists came at an important time, with the announcement of the federal Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS Act, which are expected to be fruitful for the Albuquerque metro area and New Mexico.
“You see states like Oklahoma, Kansas — states that have been looking at placing plants, why isn’t New Mexico (doing that too)?” Healy said. “The next thing is the CHIPS Act that should add 1.1 million jobs. … These are opportunities that are very timely right now for the state of New Mexico.”
But the region, the panelists said, needs to have shovel-ready sites that match the industries the area is trying to attract. The panelists also touched on what expanding businesses and site consultants want for new projects, including geographical and cost models and quality of life.
“As part of economic development, there are 20, 30, 50 different things that all play a role,” Fay said.