ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In order to secure New Mexico’s economic future, the state must reform the gross receipts tax, address flaws in public assistance programs, enhance border trade, invest in rural and tribal communities, encourage technology transfer between the labs and the rest of the community and build broadband networks throughout the state.
That’s what Heather Balas, president of the non-profit, non-partisan public policy organization New Mexico First, said were the “priority recommendations” at a Wednesday breakfast meeting of the Economic Forum of Albuquerque. Her presentation was based on a 200-person town hall held in May and subsequent report released earlier this year.
“Because we were focused on both economic security as well as vitality, we had two very different groups represented: those focused on social services and those focused on job creation,” said Balas. “Yet they were still able to find lots to agree upon.”
Many of the recommendations Balas discussed echoed initiatives that have failed to gain traction in recent years. Some forum participants expressed their frustration at the state’s ability to identify its own problems combined with an inability to usher in sweeping change that would address those issues.
“When it comes to small business, we don’t need a toolbox, we need a revolution,” said Dale Dekker of architecture firm Dekker Perich Sabatini.
Another participant said New Mexicans are simultaneously unhappy with the current state of affairs and completely unwilling to change things.
Balas said the key to altering that type of culture is education.
“We need a rich, informed public in order to make systemic changes,” said Balas.
Among the other recommendations formed at the town hall were the following:
- Improve coordination between the public and private sector to make resources easily accessible for small businesses
- Eliminate regulatory barriers that prevent tribal, rural, and frontier communities from accessing certain state economic development funds
- Identify more sources of capital for early-stage companies
- Incentivize employers to adopt family-friendly policies
Balas encouraged all the members of the forum to participate in future events hosted by New Mexico First.
“Our country is so divided right now, but we still have a lot of common ground,” she said. “Now, more than ever, it’s important to build consensus.”