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Editorial: Combining tourism, biz pitches True-ly a good idea

The New Mexico Department of Tourism is on the move, not just promoting the state’s natural beauty and many attractions, but also highlighting the potential for entrepreneurs to consider the state as a great place to locate a business.

In partnership with the city of Albuquerque this year, the agency debuted new videos featuring New Mexico companies at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, last week. The conference has become a magnet for innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to network and check out new technologies and startups.

In recent years, the city has been a regular participant. This year, the tourism agency joined in with its branding and advertising efforts to promote the state. By combining tourism images with interviews with two entrepreneurs – Taos Mountain Energy Bar company and Albuquerque-based technology startup Innobright – about why they started their businesses here, the New Mexico True campaign is expanding its message about the value the state offers.

“We’re showcasing New Mexico through all these events,” said New Mexico Technology Council President Nyika Allen. “We’re getting the word out about what makes us unique in a national and global forum.”

Allen was part of a delegation to the conference headed by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry. About a dozen local startups attended, along with public officials, economic development professionals and New Mexico-based entrepreneurs and investors. Some participated in panel discussions, of which some focused on Albuquerque and New Mexico.

The state has also purchased advertising that will play a New Mexico True commercial for anyone logging onto Wi-Fi at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in March. It’s part of the tourism department’s upcoming $170,000 advertising effort in Austin, although there is no paid placement plan for the ads as of yet. The agency manages a $9.7 million marketing and advertising budget.

“I know what you’re thinking: It’s totally different,” Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham told business leaders in a recent presentation to the Economic Forum of Albuquerque. “You don’t market tourism the same way you market economic development, but there is definitely a synergy there.”

Let’s hope so. New Mexico has struggled for years to diversify the state’s economy – weaning itself with limited success from the government and oil and gas sectors by trying to expand private-sector industries that bring new money into the state.

Recent additions to the private-sector portfolio, including Facebook, Safelite and Keter, should provide some momentum. And if there’s any question it’s needed, the latest unemployment figures that put the Land of Enchantment dead last in the nation for getting people to work – nearly two full percentage points behind the national rate of 4.7 percent – show economic development needs to be front and center.

The Tourism-Albuquerque partnership is a smart, coordinated move that pushes the agency’s message beyond just hiking, biking and scenic photo-ops. Branching out into business recruitment is a natural outgrowth of the department’s New Mexico True branding effort. Let’s hope this synergy attracts more innovators to our state.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.