Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Promoting New Mexico: Frugal Management Or Misplaced Parsimony? Plus: Latest Bear Market Action, And: Big Bill And The Spaceport 

Sec. of Tourism Jacobson
New Mexico is filled with awe inspiring landscapes, an unique culture and world-class art. So why do we rank 38th among the states when it comes to attracting tourists? The powers that be in Santa Fe insist that increasing the advertising budget to promote the Land of Enchantment won't move the needle. Here's how Secretary of Tourism Monique Jacobson puts it:

“Money is never going to be how we win in New Mexico,” she said. “We will never have as much as other states. We must be creative.”

Money is not how we are going to win? Well, we can't outspend our more populated neighbors, but money does make a difference--emphatically so. Take a look at what happened in Colorado:

In 2003, then Gov. Bill Owens dropped $9 million into the state’s tourism budget. In 2006, he upped the state’s tourism marketing fund to $19 million and Colorado surged from the nation’s 35th most popular destination in the 1990s to 10th.

You would think that kind of evidence would have state tourism officials fighting to improve upon the state's frugal $2.5 annual ad budget. After all, tourism is the state's second largest private industry and the largest private-sector employer. According to the US Travel Association, in 2007, the industry brought $5.7 billion into the state and $700 million in taxes.

With the Colorado experience demonstrating that increased ad spending attracts more visitors, our tourism secretary could be battling for more funds before the Legislature, not arguing that we can spearhead a tourism revival by simply standing pat. Sure, there are competing interests for limited state dollars, but if we are serious about sparking an economic recovery around here and thus generating more tax dollars for education and other critical needs, we need investment.

But in Santa Fe--as well it seems within the top ranks of the tourism industry--a Land Of Mañana attitude prevails. The mystique of New Mexico is a magnet for tourists and travelers--but only if they know about it. Secretary Jacobson needs to take another look at the questionable no-investment thesis that is guiding her leadership. We need aggressive marketing, not misplaced parsimony if we are going to get New Mexico's important tourism industry moving again.


And on the tourism topic, a nice write up for ABQ in the travel section of the New York Times advising tourists on what to do with a 36 hour stop in ABQ:

For visitors, the sprawl can seem daunting, but it is tempered by new bike paths. On the main drag, Central Avenue, neon signs from Route 66’s heyday glow over revitalized, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. And along the banks of the Rio Grande, lush farmland provides a quiet oasis, not to mention heirloom beans, corn and more to feed the city’s vibrant organic movement...

Good stuff. Maybe it will help Mayor Berry elevate his prominence as the city's promoter-in-chief.


Have you been surprised by the difficulty that the solar industry has had getting a foothold in the city? We thought it would be one of the economic bright spots during this downturn, but it turns out that renewable energy jobs are not exempt from the still rampaging New Mexico bear market:

...Schott Solar, which makes solar panels in Albuquerque, said about 25 temporary employees in charge of making solar panels will be laid off.Solar expert Lorenzo Trujillo said he's not surprised by Schott's decision. The market in New Mexico has started to decline because there are not enough government incentives, which, in turn, makes solar less attractive to consumers.

A trade group says there are are about 2,100 employees in the solar industry in NM, ranking us 13th in the nation. Competition from China--whose government gives major tax incentives to solar players--has been a major sticking point in getting the industry here really rolling.


Yes, increase the state tourism ad budget. Yes, boost state capital outlay expenditures. Yes, promote the bejesus out of the Spaceport. Why? Read it and weep:

The local (ABQ) labor force has shrunk by 7.4 percent or close to 30,000 jobs over (a) four-year period, giving credence to speculation that unemployment is actually at a double-digit rate. The office real estate market is considered a lagging indicator of where the local economy is headed. Since it takes people to fill empty offices, the market will only begin to recover after companies begin hiring again, said Terri Dettweiler of CB Richard Ellis. “The bottom line is jobs and job growth,” she said.


It could have been State Senator Eric Griego endorsing fellow Senator Tim Keller for the Dem nod for the ABQ congressional seat, but Keller opted out of the race earlier this year and has now given his backing to fellow progressive Griego:

Eric has long been the conscience of our progressive values in our community. He also knows a thing or two about creating jobs and protecting our environment. Eric passed landmark legislation for green job creation in our state legislature. He has a critical combination of passion, experience and a no-nonsense approach needed to beat back the Tea Party and straighten out Washington...

Griego is doing a pretty good job of consolidating the more liberal side of the Dem party but rivals Marty Chavez and Michelle Lujan Grisham are also making headway (United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta endorsed Chavez this week and liberal ABQ Rep. Gail Chasey has endorsed Lujan Grisham).

As for Keller, he would have been an odds-on favorite to snag the nomination if he had gotten in early, but he says he does not have DC fever. He continues to mull a possible run for state treasurer or ABQ mayor. Meantime, he will seek a second four year term in the senate from his ABQ Mid-Heights district. Keller, in his mid-thirties, has a smorgasbord of political opportunity before him but it's all about making the right move at the right time. There are no guarantees.


Yes, he's still in the dog house with a large swath of the New Mexico public, but the recent acceleration of good news coming from Spaceport America in southern NM is starting to burnish the somewhat tattered reputation of former Governor Big Bill. He did not attend the recent christening ceremonies of the Spaceport, but he did have some comments:

"What's very important is not just the existing relationship with Virgin Galactic that needs to be honored and enhanced but also the potential to create other space-related activities in science, technology and education as part of the spaceport portfolio for the future. We could be creating thousands of jobs in Southern New Mexico that would also ultimately benefit El Paso and the border."New Mexico has taken a leap in commercial space. The first major benefits will come after the space tourism component is launched and the world sees that ordinary humans are going into space."

Well done, Bill. Now about that Rail Runner problem....

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