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Executive’s Desk: Investing in creative economy a smart strategy

New Mexico needs jobs.

Over the past several weeks, economic reports have come out showing that New Mexico needs higher-paying jobs, jobs that cannot be moved to lower bidding regions in the global wage race to the bottom. We need to invest in entrepreneurs building companies in growing economic sectors that align with our region’s assets.

The creative economy provides our state an ideal opportunity for economic growth and prosperity.

In the past ten years, the creative economy has become one of the prime economic job creation sectors globally. Jobs in the creative industries are favored because they are high-paying, economic base jobs that rely on exports of digital goods, such as film, music, apps, software and design.

Albuquerque is wisely investing in economic base jobs as these companies generate 60 percent of their sales outside the local economy, bringing in new dollars and expanding the New Mexico economy.

The creative economy is valued at $3.7 trillion globally. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that, in 2012, U.S. creative industries contributed $700 billion to GDP. All of Europe’s economic sectors are in decline except its creative economy. South Korea has converted 100 percent of its economic development policy to this new market.

States that have embraced the creative industries include Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, California and Minnesota. More states are announcing creative economy initiatives and investments regularly.

Cities investing in their creative economy that have the fastest job growth in this sector are Austin, up 40 percent since 2003; Portland, up 22 percent; New York City and Brooklyn, up 15 percent; San Francisco, up 14 percent; Nashville, up 9 percent; and Houston, up 7 percent.

New Mexico has the potential to compete in the creative economy if we grow our support for entrepreneurs and young professionals in these industries. UNM, Highlands University, NMSU, CNM and the Santa Fe University of Art and Design have built courses that can produce digital innovations. New Mexico is training young people to become successful in the creative industries, but recent graduates depart the state in search of jobs at growing companies. We lose these “assets” and the future economic growth they promise.

What is the creative economy?

The creative industries already have major companies we are all familiar with: Disney, Adobe, Amazon and



Netflix are examples. New venture formation in the creative industries is escalating, too. Last year, five of the top 20 venture capital-backed startups were creative industries companies. These include WhatsApp (advertising), GoPro (photography), GrubHub (restaurants), Maker Studios (film) and Big Fish Games (gaming). The digital tsunami that has engulfed our world has created a tide of innovation in the creative industries.

Digital technologies have radically altered every creative sector. Digital cameras and photo-sharing websites dominate photography. Handheld HD-quality video cameras have reduced filmmaking costs for a plethora of indie and documentary filmmakers. Digital music recording allows musicians to market and distribute via iTunes, Bandcamp and other venues. Museums are engaging audiences with huge touchscreens in exhibit areas – just look to Corrales-based Ideum, a global leader in the field. Startup fashion brands get launched through sites like Pinterest and Etsy.

And alongside all of these innovations is the explosion in crowdfunding through sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where it is estimated over half of posted projects fall into the creative economy.

Creative economy entrepreneurs

As in all industries, many of the innovations in the creative economy have come to market by way of



entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are willing to overcome great challenges. But entrepreneurs need fertile startup ecosystems that provide mentors, market access, investors and knowledge.

They need to be able to attract and hire talented early employees. And they need policies that support and ease their growth, and the resulting jobs and wealth they create.

Creative Startups is taking the lead in building Albuquerque’s creative economy with the support of the city of Albuquerque, UNM, EPSCoR, the National Science Foundation, and private sponsors and investors. The Creative Startups accelerator is widely recognized as the leading accelerator in the creative economy.

The 2014 startups have created 70 jobs and raised over $1 million in angel investment.

New Mexico has sown the seeds of success with our higher education programs, the city of Albuquerque’s investment into Creative Startups, and the launch of co-working and maker spaces.

We are starting to move in the right direction. We need policies that promote the growth of creative companies here, compelling recent college graduates to stay in New Mexico. We need to redirect the millions of dollars our state spends convincing call centers and outdated manufacturing plants to set up shop here – costing us millions more in tax incentives. It is time to redirect the majority of our efforts toward supporting entrepreneurs starting new companies in expanding markets.

It is time for everyone to join in and redouble efforts to build new companies, support entrepreneurs, including the creative economy entrepreneurs: Help build an entrepreneurial mind-set in Albuquerque and New Mexico.

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