In the seven years I’ve been in Silver City, I’ve witnessed a great deal of public huffing and puffing about “economic development.” It seems like there is always an announcement in the paper about a meeting of VIPs that somehow involves bringing economic development to Silver City.
I can’t keep up with them all, e.g. The Grant County Economic Development Coalition for Progress, The Southwest New Mexico Economic Development Partnership, The Gila Economic Development Alliance, Silver City Main Street, Silver City – Grant County Prospectors, The Chamber of Commerce – regular, The Chamber of Commerce – Green, WNMU’s Small Business Development Center, and so on. I’ve probably left out a few.
A couple years ago, Grant County even hired an economic development coordinator, I guess less to coordinate any actual economic development than to coordinate the various groups who were head scratching about economic development. That position is no more, assumed by the head of the Grant County Planning Department, Anthony Gutierrez.
(I read in the paper recently that Gutierrez, when asked to report on economic development, said that would be easy, because there wasn’t any. There’s a guy to vote for!)
Naturally, when you don’t have any economic development, EVERYTHING is pushed as economic development. Refurbish the Silco Theater? ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT! Build a Twin Sisters Reservoir? ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT!
So it isn’t surprising that one of the reasons for increasing the GRT is to help bring economic development to Grant County, specifically for the Convention Center and a multiplex theater, more generally to build a “quality of life” infrastructure necessary to attract the type of people economic development requires, i.e. professionals and entrepreneurs, who have lots of other places to choose from. The problem with all of this is in the last two words of where we live, Grant County, New Mexico. Repeat slowly: New Mexico.
Nobody in their right mind would move a business into New Mexico, unless maybe it was a sole proprietorship or family enterprise. Why is that, you say? Let’s look at some of the things that a potential business newcomer would review. We don’t have to mine the data too deeply, which wouldn’t change the conclusion. We‘ll just take a quick look, which is all a potential business would do before deciding to look elsewhere, e.g. Texas, Arizona or Oklahoma.
– NM tied at 36th with KY in a recent CNBC 2013 ranking of states in which to do business. (TX #1, AZ #22, OK #4, CO #8) CNBC ranked NM 46 in education, 47 in business friendliness.
– 50th state, Economic Freedom of North America, the Fraser Institute, 2012
– #1 “Death Spiral” state by Forbes, 11/25/12. A ranking of private workers vs. welfare recipients and government workers.
– #45 in legal climate, Institute for Legal Reform, 2012.
– #50 in Kids Count 2013 report, Annie E. Casey Foundation, NM Voices for Children.
– #50 high school graduation rate, Diplomas Count. 10-year to 2010, ahead of only D of C..
– NM = D- grade in K-12 Achievement, Education Research Center, 2012. Above D of C, Louisiana, Mississippi.
– Bottom 10 states in rating of four year colleges, US Chamber of Commerce, 2012.
– Surrounded by right-to-work states: TX, AZ, OK, UT (but not CO.)
– Renewable energy of 20% by 2020 = electric rates higher than states without renewable standards.
– Largest private employer, Intel, can’t meet goal of new hires being at least 60% from NM.
– NM only state west of Mississippi as “top outbound” in 2012, United Van Lines.
– NM one of only seven states with complex, business unfriendly “gross receipts tax.”
Take a look at that list, and you’re sure tempted to move your business to NM, right? It also means “economic development” efforts that don’t take into consideration the state’s problems are largely a waste of time. Even making Highway180 to Deming a four-lane won’t help much, maybe a little more tourism. For sure, golf cart paths, baseball diamonds, and swimming pools won’t do anything, but maybe an empty cinema multiplex will draw tourists fresh from a visit to the empty Spaceport.