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Like Cubs, NM economy can stay course and win

Last fall, most of the country was riveted to television screens as we watched the Chicago Cubs, baseball’s longtime “lovable losers,” win their first World Series in 108 years. The foundation for their success began many years ago when the club’s new general manager and owners decided to completely rebuild the team and invest for the long term. Although it took a few years for the club to see results, their management stayed the course, and they built a team poised to contend for years to come.

In much the same way, New Mexico’s policymakers are working hard to reverse our state’s history of being at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad list, starting with the state’s economy.

The recent oil and gas price slump was a wake-up call to all New Mexicans. Unquestionably, we must diversify New Mexico’s revenue sources to build a stronger economic base. A key tool in this effort is the Local Economic Development Act, or LEDA.

LEDA is an economic development tool that allows the state to close deals with companies looking to expand their businesses. It provides funding for building business infrastructure in the state. Businesses participating in the program are required to meet certain economic development benchmarks, ensuring these funds are invested responsibly.

In 2015, we took an important first step by increasing our LEDA fund to $50 million. This investment sent a clear message to companies that we’re committed to helping businesses grow in New Mexico. It’s already provided a strong return on our investment as over 7,000 new jobs have been created as a direct result of LEDA.

I’ve seen first-hand the significant impact of LEDA in our communities. In Valencia County, LEDA was used to bring Keter Plastics to Belen, creating up to 175 jobs in the area. LEDA also closed the deal with Facebook, and its data center project is already creating positive ripples throughout New Mexico.

Last week, we celebrated the announcement of a new solar power plant in Albuquerque that will supply energy to the new data center. All told, Facebook’s presence in New Mexico will create thousands of new jobs and generate as much as $1.5 billion in construction work in the state, thanks to a small investment from our LEDA funds.

Importantly, LEDA is helping to bring new industries to our rural communities. Forty percent of the projects funded by LEDA are in New Mexico’s rural areas, benefitting at least 23 communities.

Despite all of this success, some lawmakers have recently tried to cut funding for this program. Thankfully, Gov. Susana Martinez restored the money for LEDA using her line-item veto power.

Unfortunately, just the willingness of some in the Legislature to cut the funding has already caused significant damage. Businesses see it as a sign that the state lacks resolve to follow through on its commitment to business development, and some companies have shied away from potential deals in our state.

Currently, there are over $60 million worth of new projects in the LEDA pipeline. We cannot pull the plug on this program now that it’s providing real results for New Mexicans.

If the Cubs can win a World Series, New Mexico can become a leader in economic development. Like the Cubs, however, we must stay the course. Success isn’t built overnight, but we’re on the right path. Let’s build on our momentum and keep moving New Mexico forward.

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