Rebuilding the American dream
In the past weeks, we have heard a lot from both the president and GOP presidential contenders on their views and proposals to put more Americans back to work and strengthen small businesses, which are the engine of economic growth in our country. Here, in New Mexico, we welcome the public debate about the best way to grow the economy and create jobs. Jumpstarting our financial recovery is the responsibility of all of us in public service, regardless of party affiliation.
This week, New Mexicans will have a unique opportunity to join in this national dialogue. Albuquerque will host the second policy conference of the newly formed Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN). The network held its inaugural conference this past January in Miami. The goal of HLN’s “Rebuilding the American Dream” southwest regional conference is to bring together elected officials and Hispanic grassroots leaders from across the country for a meaningful discussion about the policy issues affecting the Hispanic community.
This gathering could not have come at a better time. As the largest minority group both in our state and at the national level, Hispanics play a crucial role in the economic development of our country. As such, they must be part of the conversation that seeks solutions to the challenges we face. A recent poll conducted by HLN, in partnership with Resurgent Republic, reveals that 60 percent of New Mexico’s Hispanics believe our country is on the wrong track. Not surprisingly, their top two issues of concern are the economy and jobs.
The Hispanic unemployment rate is at a dismal 11.5 percent, compared to the national average of 9.1 percent. The situation is even more worrisome for our Hispanic youth. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for young Hispanics climbed a shocking 9 percent from May to June, reaching a whopping 35 percent.
Not another speaking fest
During this week’s HLN conference, an impressive number of former and current state and federal officials will hear directly from young New Mexicans – and all participants – about their concerns in reaching the American dream.
The keynote speaker of the two-day conference is Governor Susana Martinez. Also in attendance will be Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and U.S. Congressmen Steve Pearce, Raúl Labrador and Francisco “Quico” Canseco. In all, more than 30 panelists and guest speakers will tackle top policy issues including job creation, education, health, and immigration.
Among the local participants are Secretary of Public Education Hanna Skandera, as well as State Representatives Nora Espinoza and Alonzo Baldonado.
Yet this will not be another speaking fest. The conference organizers have vowed to carefully listen to the debate, draw conclusions, and formulate specific policy recommendations on each of the areas discussed. They will then educate local and national leaders about the conference’s findings, advocating for Hispanics views to receive serious consideration in the drafting of laws and regulations nationwide.
A new job-creation bill
In New Mexico, writing and passing a new job-creation bill will be one of the top priorities of the 2012 legislative session. What we learn at the HLN conference about Hispanics’ priorities and concerns can only help us do a better job at drawing up commonsense legislation.
In my own quest to bring the public and private sectors together to create a healthy job market environment, I recently completed a job-creation tour through 10 towns in our state. During the tour, I listened intently and learned an immense deal about the views of both our business leaders and community members on the best ways to foster growth opportunities for small businesses. This feedback will also be taken into consideration in the drafting of the job-creation bill.
Events like the job-creation tour and the Hispanic Leadership Network’s conference are critically important to ensuring that New Mexico’s laws are sound, inclusive, and have broad appeal. I am extremely proud of my involvement in both initiatives.
Jon Barela is New Mexico’s economic development secretary.
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