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New Mexico’s strategic plan is a big step forward

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The New Mexico Department of Economic Development (EDD) has contracted with SRI International to develop a 20-year State Strategic Plan (SSP) for New Mexico. The SSP was based on the inspiring vision: “Building a diverse and robust economy that engages local talent, cultivates innovation and delivers prosperity to all New Mexicans.” “

This plan of nearly 400 pages is available online. I have read it several times, participated in the EDD presentation at meetings hosted by the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce and the University of New Mexico, and given a talk highlighting how a technical organization made up of Sandia retirees Labs could help EDD implement it.

The following is my assessment of the SSP; its positive characteristics far outweigh any concerns.

• The SSP is a necessary and timely first step in improving New Mexico’s stagnant economy. ESD should be funded to lead the implementation of the SSP, as the bulk of the work is yet to come. EDD must have an exceptional workforce whose skills include a technology expert with a deep understanding of the technologies that drive economic growth.

• EDD is transparent and accepts suggestions for improvement.

• EDD’s desire to tackle the state’s stagnant economy, income inequalities, poverty, innovation, entrepreneurship, regulations, the selection of industrial sectors. better adapted ”and to improve the link between education and economic growth is commendable.

• Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s publication of an executive order to identify onerous and redundant state, county and city regulations is a huge step forward.

• The elephant in the EDD room is how to change the culture dependent on the government of New Mexico into one that promotes private sector economic growth. The UNM president cites his partnerships with Sandia Labs, LANL and AFRL, all government-owned entities, when discussing UNM-industry partnerships.

• The parameters that measure the economic growth of the state have not been identified. I prefer the outcome metric: median household income measured against that of the United States.

• Public research universities, in part because of their dependence on federal research and development (R&D) funds, have moved from local economic growth, which is measurable, to knowledge creation, which is difficult to measure. They are difficult to reform and refocus on industry-relevant interdisciplinary training and user processes rather than outcome measures. Universities select external reviews of their work and report only favorable ones. Arizona State University president cut departments and reorganized around public results to make ASU more responsive to Arizona’s needs. The EED should be prepared to force the restructuring of New Mexico’s public college and university system.

• The inputs to economic growth are labor, capital and technology. The SSP processed the first two but not the third. EDD assumes that the federal entities of New Mexico are a reservoir of technology that is economically relevant, useful, and accessible to state industry. Federal spending on R&D is focused on defense and represents 22% of the US total; Government R&D is rapidly approaching economic irrelevance.

• EDD’s dependence on cooperation and partnership between local entities to build the state economy is overstated. Harmony is overrated and cheerleaders are unnecessary; criticism is important for progress.

• ESD seems to advocate equal support from all entrepreneurs. A study finds that a dramatically increasing number of startups with university bachelor’s degrees are failing to contribute to economic growth. Another study indicates that increased funding for national laboratories has a neutral or negative impact on the quantity adjusted for the quality of entrepreneurship. ESD should focus on entrepreneurial endeavors with the potential to become gazelles and unicorns and should be aware of relevant research for the implementation of SSP.