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Facebook move vindicates NM business climate

It’s “Facebook official.” Los Lunas will be the home of the company’s massive $250 million data center. This is a big win for New Mexico, but it didn’t happen overnight.

Gov. Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Legislature worked together the past few years to dramatically improve the state’s business climate, paving the way for investments such as Facebook’s. A few highlights of that work:

• Adoption of the 2013 tax overhaul package that stopped penalizing employers for investing in the state and hiring New Mexicans.

• Funding the Job Training Incentive Program, which helps new employees perform at their highest level.

• Dedicating $50 million to the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA), a job creation program that helps New Mexico compete for economic development projects.

In August 2015, Martinez led a team to the Bay Area to meet with Facebook, tell New Mexico’s story, and ask them to consider the state for their next project. Among other items, the delegation explained the tax and regulatory improvements recently made to encourage investment and stimulate job creation.

Facebook could have taken this new data center anywhere, yet we beat out 20 other states. Many, including Utah, are known for being very competitive.

How did that happen? One Utah official may have said it best: “[Utah] didn’t roll out the red carpet in the way New Mexico did.”

Not only will Facebook invest at least $250 million in this project, they’re dedicated to buying locally and hiring local employees and subcontractors to the greatest extent possible. The first data center building will be 510,000 square feet, and there is the potential for additional buildings.

The project will create between 30 and 100 high-paying permanent jobs, as well as hundreds of construction jobs for the next seven to 10 years.

That’s welcome news to New Mexico’s construction industry, which has struggled to rebound from the recession.

In selecting New Mexico, Facebook sends a message to other employers that this is a great place for business. They were impressed with the state’s economic development tools and opportunities for renewable energy development, such as the fast-track agreement reached between PNM, Facebook and the Public Regulation Commission.

These reforms have brought home some important wins. Facebook joins PCM, Safelite and Rural Sourcing Inc. among the latest newcomers to New Mexico. And homegrown companies such as Unity BPO and Skorpios are expanding and thriving. Over the past several months, thousands of new jobs have been announced and will be created in New Mexico.

Just before leaving Facebook’s office last year, the governor was led to the 50-foot-long Facebook Wall and invited to add a comment and her signature alongside those from hundreds of others who have visited the company. Her message was an invitation that Facebook’s leadership decided worthy of pursuing:

“Come to the Land of Enchantment. NM True.”

Facebook discovered that the governor and Legislature crafted new policies that welcome investment and job creation. These were important and necessary changes for the state, and they’re working. New Mexico can now successfully compete against any state for world-class companies.

Other employers are also taking a serious look, but for them to follow Facebook’s path and commit to locating here, the Legislature needs to protect the important improvements it and the governor made in the past few years. Reversing course on these improvements during the special session or the regular legislative sessions to follow would seriously jeopardize the opportunities that are beginning to emerge.

Recruiting Facebook was the result of many months of collaboration and negotiation. Fortunately, our work and that of our allies was supported by a strong foundation of economic development tools provided by the governor and the Legislature.

To diversify our economy and improve our state’s outlook, we must ensure those tools remain in place for other employers considering New Mexico, and for those employers already here that are wanting to expand.

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