Becoming the more-jobs state
Two things are true for the majority of high-school students in New Mexico, especially in the smaller communities: First, if these young people get college degrees, they tend to make considerably more money in their lifetime than if they do not. It is not a guarantee, but, like fastening your seat belt, while it does not completely protect you in a collision, it certainly improves your odds of not being seriously injured. Additionally, when young people get college degrees they generally will have many more opportunities than without.
Secondly, for many who get college degrees there is a better-than-average chance they will have to relocate elsewhere in the state or, more likely, somewhere else in the nation to be able to have a college-education-required job.
College-required jobs are at a premium in New Mexico, outside of finance, engineering, nursing and education. New Mexico colleges graduate many students who find that pressures in the job market force them to leave the state. There are even majors in New Mexico colleges for which there are no jobs within the state. In talking to recent graduates I find that some ambitious graduates say it is obvious that companies in New Mexico are just holding on, not leading the nation.
There are four stakeholders in this discussion: first, the New Mexico taxpayers, since they provide quite a bit of the money it takes to run the colleges in New Mexico. Tuition is often less than half of the true cost of the education and that tab is picked up by the New Mexico taxpayers. What do those taxpayers want? More college-educated citizens living in New Mexico.
A second stakeholder is the business community, which understands that to expand it must attract good businesses to New Mexico. Chicken and egg as to which must be first, but both well-educated citizens and college-degree-requiring companies must together improve the business environment.
Third, there are the parents of college graduates. Nothing is more heartbreaking for parents than children moving out of state. Parents work hard getting their children in high school and college. They are crushed when their child gets seven job offers, not one from a company in New Mexico. Oh, my. These poor parents will now spend untold hours in airports to be able to see the grandchildren.
Finally, the fourth stakeholder is the students themselves. Most have gone into debt and need to get jobs that both challenge them and provide the kind of financial support they need to have in the next phase of their lives.
So why are there so few commercial professional jobs locally? It would seem to me that the reason for fewer jobs is because the climate for commercial economic development locally is very anti-business. The definition of anti-business is doing those things that make it harder to be in business than is ought to be. Example: Everyone in business has to do paperwork. Anti-business is when you have to go round and round with a government agency about the paperwork that you have done correctly, but they ignore.
This unfriendly attitude toward business is not a new problem. It has been this way since the 1960s, and, unless something changes, it will be this way forever. Many leaders in New Mexico have never made a payroll and look down their noses at those people who own their own businesses. Many like the safe jobs working for the state where they get all holidays off and never have to work at night.
When I graduated from NMSU with my bachelor’s degree in 1972, I was forced to relocate even though I would have rather stayed in Las Cruces. Why did I leave? There were no professional jobs in town for my degree. Years later I was finally able to return by taking a considerable pay cut from my out-of-state job. I am glad to have returned and live in this state but it did require coming back to an anti-business world.
There awo reasons for the long-term lack of economic growth. For some people, New Mexico is perfect as is. They want to keep its quaint and charming ambiance. Lacking that, they want as little growth as possible. They resist providing any incentives to bring companies to our area.
The second group concerns me more. For them, the real conflict is that commercial growth is fueled by people making a profit. These people do not support commercial activity because they are anti-capitalism. Some of the second group even seem to be employed by the local, county and state governments. Their priority is making rules to limit economic growth.
Real economic growth comes from jobs. It is an immutable truth that the way to depress economic growth is to place barriers to economic development. The biggest barriers to economic growth are rules and regulations like impact fees for businesses and the zoning. Each rule slows growth and discourages new businesses.
I am a capitalist and proud of it. I went to college to make more money. We need to develop the commercial economic base in our area so our children can go to college and then stay in the area. One way to start is with our local government. Identify those people who think that making money is bad. They need to be fired.
Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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