Monday, March 28, 2011

We're On The Econ Beat: Mystery Firm That Rejected ABQ Revealed, Plus: Rio Rancho Crash By The Numbers, And: Is Susana "Crazy" For Appointing White? 

We're back on the econ beat this Monday. First, there was that odd newspaper story that said ABQ came within a whisker of landing an Intel-sized economic development deal, but in true conspiracy fashion the article said "details are secret" and that the company that jilted ABQ after intensive negotiations is code named "Angel."

Well, for Angel the devil was in the details and they decided not to come to our fair city. So who is Angel?

While Mayor Berry and the economic heavies involved in trying to lure the large firm won't say because they have signed nondisclosure agreements, we can tell you with the authority of our Senior Alligators that the company was First Solar, one of the world's largest makers of solar nodules.

Instead of ABQ or Texas, First Solar selected Mesa, AZ for its new manufacturing facility that will cost $300 million and employ 600. As it turns out, First Solar already has its corporate headquarters in Tempe so it's no great surprise that they would decide to expand their presence in the region.

But that didn't stop Mayor Berry and others from faulting New Mexico's tax structure for the rejection, offering up all sorts of tax code esoteria. But tax considerations for companies valued at $13 billion like First Solar are not paramount. Often times, it's as simple as where a company's executives like to live. Quality of the local public and private schools and the quality of the labor force are also a key factors.

Look at what the mayor of Mesa had to say after his city beat out ABQ:

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who participated in the announcement, said economic policies and even business tax incentives are fine, but landing big projects depends on an educated workforce and the viability of Arizona's cities.

Berry worked intensively to lure First Solar but passing off their rebuff as a tax decision prevents him from looking at economic development here more holistically. It's always about more than taxes.


Here is the anatomy of one of the greatest real estate crashes in state history. We take you to Rio Rancho and more specifically, AMREP, the company that makes its money selling land in what is now New Mexico's third largest city:

The company's primary source of revenue is selling its developed and undeveloped properties to homebuilders and commercial property developers. With the housing bust and subsequent economic downturn in the United States, sales of real estate have slid. In fiscal 2008 ended April 30, the company sold 406 acres for over $27 million. In 2009 that number dropped to 148 acres for $9 million and in 2010 only 56 acres were sold for revenue of approximately $5.2 million. So far, for the first nine months of fiscal 2011 ended January 31, 2011 the company has only sold 16.3 acres for $1.57 million.

Rio Rancho may have been the state's fastest growing city in the first decade of the 21st century. It doesn't appear it will hold that title in the second one.


It's a slow drip, isn't it?:

The U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday that it will reduce its workforce with layoffs and offers of buyouts and will close seven district offices from New England to New Mexico to help address record losses....Albuquerque would lose 45 administrative jobs over the next four months. Functions performed here will begin moving next week to Phoenix.

And then the rays of hope:

A new company opening its headquarters in Albuquerque is bringing more than 100
jobs along with it. (The) grand opening marks the start of MSR-FSR’s flagship operation south of Albuquerque in Mesa del Sol and a major influx of jobs and dollars to the local economy.


Crazy. That's what a
New Mexican editorial
calls Governor Martinez's appointment of former Bernalillo County sheriff and current ABQ public safety director Darren White to a slot on the NM Judicial Standards Commission. That's the panel that judges the ethical conduct of judges:

...As sheriff....he did no great honor to the office....He was especially generous to a campaign contributor, buying drunken-driving monitors from him that proved worthless. Worse, his war-on-crime zeal drove him to order his officers to seize cash and property from people they arrested--before bothering to charge them with a crime....

(Commission) members must be....expected to demonstrate judgment untainted by partisan politics. This guy plays to the tea-party gallery with great gusto. He was an active campaigner for Martínez, and appeared on TV commercials with her. Pretty clearly, he's got some political payback coming--but Judicial Standards? That's crazy. The governor should return to her senses--and huddle with White over a graceful exit from the commission....

And the White appointment was a slow pitch over the plate of attorney Sam Bregman who is looking for one these days as he seeks to oust Dem Party Chairman Javier Gonzales at a central committee meeting April 30. Said Sam:

The appointment of Darren White is the latest example of Governor Martinez’s broken promises and business as usual attitude. The placement of yet, another divisive, polarizing political operative to a distinguished state commission that is charged with ensuring that judges are models of integrity, reveals the disdain and contempt she holds for the citizens of New Mexico.

White is a highly partisan figure who sought the congressional seat in 2008 and has repeatedly tangled with the legal system. If the Governor wants a bulldog in the judicial china closet, she's got one. But as Mayor Berry has discovered, there will be a price to pay for letting him rattle around in there.


We're told that John Sanchez and Heather Wilson kept their distance at Sunday's East Mountain Tea Party event that attracted about 100. (We blogged earlier that the event was on Saturday). The joint appearance came after Sanchez unloaded on Wilson in national press interviews (see Friday's blog) as he prepares to join Wilson in the race for the 2012 GOP US senate nomination battle. Heather was asked about John's broadsides during an interview Friday with the ABC web program "Top Line." But she wasn't taking the bait:

John hasn't decided whether he will run or not and when he does I am sure we will have the opportunity to compare our records.

They certainly will.


The mail comes in with reaction to the fighting words of John Sanchez. The lieutenant governor and former one term state representative unloaded on former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson as he prepared to join her in the race of the 2012 US Senate nomination, First, a reader skeptical of Sanchez and then one who embraces his candidacy:

John's a nice guy. He's built a reputable small roofing firm. Is he US Senate material? I don't think so....Look more closely at his pedigree. What has he done for New Mexico? Won a couple of Republican primaries? That's it? Has he actually led anything or gotten along with anybody that he needs to actually win a legislative vote? Imagine him trying to get 50 other US Senators to agree with him.

Now, I'm not singing Heather Wilson's praises either. She actually knows something about defense and our national labs. A policy wonk? That's not bad. But I don't think she really cares about anybody in New Mexico, especially if they are poor. She's not the person for a citizen to knock on her door and ask her a question....What did she actually do for New Mexicans? Keep us safe? From what? We need jobs. economic security....I believe the Republican Party has better leaders than these two. Maybe there's another conservative minor league player ready for prime time.

And another reader writes:

(Dem US Rep. Martin) Heinrich and (Former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather) Wilson have no "zing"--no electricity. How can anyone get excited about a guy who sleeps in his congressional office or a women that "hangs" with retired military people. On the other hand, Sanchez has "soul." He also smiles and has great business credentials.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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