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Economic Development secretary: ‘playing defense’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Matt Geisel said he expects his agency’s legislative priorities to face opposition in the upcoming session that begins Jan. 17.

Matt Geisel, secretary of the state Economic Development Department (Courtesy Economic Development Department)

Matt Geisel, secretary of the state Economic Development Department
(Courtesy Economic Development Department)

“We’re going to be playing defense,” said Geisel at a recent Economic Forum meeting at the Albuquerque Country Club. “There will be a little bit of offense, and hopefully we’ll protect the economic development progress we’ve made during this administration.”

Geisel said his department would focus on preserving three incentives for companies looking to expand and relocate to New Mexico: the state’s Local Economic Development Act fund, the Job Training Incentive Program and the High Wage Tax Credit.

“Without these tools, we would not be able to compete with some 35 other states for projects,” said Geisel.

Though economic developers frequently cite the power of the incentives, lawmakers have been thus far unwilling to commit to keeping the programs intact. The state’s revenue projections for the upcoming fiscal year are $300 million less than this year’s original spending levels.

Geisel said he would like to turn LEDA into a $50 million “evergreen fund” that businesses know will be accessible each year. The fund currently has about $35 million.

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He also said the department needs $12 million to meet JTIP’s backlog, as well as $180,000 to support seven business incubators, among other funding needs.

Geisel said he vehemently disagreed with the idea of such incentives being “corporate welfare,” and on the contrary felt funding such programs was key to solving the state’s economic woes.

“We’re able to solve so many of society’s ills through job creation,” he said. “The true beneficiary of these programs is the New Mexico workforce.”

New Mexico currently has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country at 6.7 percent.

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