The New Mexico Economic Development Department and Stanford Research Institute developed a State Strategic Plan (SSP) for N.M. in 2021. This plan called for N.M. to diversify its economy into nine industry sectors.
Except for film and television, N.M.’s public has not heard if and how this plan is being executed. It was not mentioned in our governor’s 2023 State of the State address or her opening speech to the 2023 Legislature.
That prompts the question: Does our state have the leadership necessary to execute the SSP in today’s globally competitive environment where economic growth is driven by innovation at the intersection of multiple disciplines? Must we be resigned to incremental, piecemeal legislation and 20th century, single-discipline academic programs?
There are three highly intertwined disruptions that will shape future economic growth. These will massively impact the STEMM-based industry sectors identified in the N.M. SSP: aerospace, biosciences, cybersecurity, sustainable and value-added agriculture, intelligent manufacturing and sustainable and green energy.
The first disruption is the transition to renewable energy. This disruption will transform geopolitics and open economic doors for N.M. – provided we take our apathy meds, move fast and attract renewable energy equipment manufacturers and companies seeking to become carbon neutral. For starters:
• Persuade the federal government to make all N.M. defense sites energy-secure, energy-independent and carbon neutral, including buildings and employee transportation, by 2030. Use locating spent fuel rod storage in N.M. as a negotiable asset. In return, N.M. will make all state facilities carbon neutral by 2030.
⋄ Persuade the federal government to make all other federal facilities and the city of Los Alamos carbon neutral, including building heating and transportation, by 2032. In return, N.M. will make the city of Santa Fe carbon neutral by 2035.
• Form public/private ventures to build, operate and improve a N.M.-owned, smart electric grid that enables N.M. to have plentiful renewable electricity and export it for profit.
• Use a combination of N.M. state land and N.M. investments to create renewable energy generation, transmission and storage in N.M.
The second disruption is U.S. economic and military competition with Russia and China. This competition underpinned the Inflation Reduction Act, The Chips and Science Act and other federal industrial policy legislation. It will result in increased funding for N.M. defense labs and cause defense contractors to establish satellite offices in N.M. that will remain here as long as the federal funding lasts. This disruption also means many U.S. manufacturing companies will be moving from China to the U.S. N.M. should persuade these companies to relocate here.
The third disruption is the application of artificial intelligence to everything. N.M.’s education institutions must prepare students for AI’s disruption of every industry sector in the SSP as well as N.M.’s omnipresent defense sector. National defense, largely nuclear weapons, is over 20% of N.M.’s gross domestic product.
States that attract firms to relocate and create competitive startups will have talented, AI-savvy workforces. That workforce is necessary to compete in the STEMM-based sectors as well as the film and television sector which will be transformed by AI. One may also identify other actions N.M. should pursue, especially in the biosciences where UNM excels.
But the elephant in the room is where does New Mexico find the leadership necessary to capitalize on federal industrial policy programs, execute the SSP and capitalize on these disruptions?