Thursday, January 31, 2008


New claims for unemployment compensation are one of those measures where the state data is buried. If claims are trending up, it isn't good news. Here are the New Mexico figures for the first three weeks of 2008: +200 for week ending January 5. -66, week ending January 12. +211, week ending January 19.

"Power to Save the World"

This is a dandy new book from Gwyneth Cravens, who grew up in Albuquerque in the 1950s and had a parent (her dad), the parents of friends, and, later, her own friends employed in the nuclear complex.
In one of those "small world of New Mexico" connections, nuclear convert Stewart Brand provides a positive back-cover blurb that is repeated on Cravens' Web site, Brand's earlier fame came as founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue. Brand's New Mexico's connections go back nearly 40 years and include acquaintance with Albuquerque solar luminaries and founders of the Lama Foundation near San Cristobal. More recently, Brand has been a board member of the Santa Fe Institute. Cravens' site has Brand's report of a seminar she did for the Long Now Foundation (, where Brand is co-chair of the board. Long Now's other co-chair is Danny Hillis, a member of the science board of Santa Fe Institute. Just one of the stops along the amazing career of Hillis, who is a mere 51-years-old, was co-founding Thinking Machines Corp. a leading innovator in massive parallel computers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wind Energy

The latest market report from the American Wind Energy Association, released this month, shows a 45% expansion in the nation's wind generation capacity during 2007, bringing the total to 5,249 megawatts. That comes from 3,188 wind turbines. The detail for wind energy, seldom mentioned by its advocates, is that until the generated electricity can be stored, generating capacity from other sources must be available to take over when the wind stops blowing. 
No new wind generating projects were completed in New Mexico during 2007, the report says. New Mexico has 496 megawatts of wind generation capacity, good for tenth place nationally. Oklahoma ranked ninth with 689 megawatts.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Centers of "Excellence"

The Census Bureau is pitching the wonders of the 2007 economic census. To do so, the bureau has a new report listing the industries in each state that had sales ranking first in receipts or receipts per capita. New Mexico probably is too small to lead an industry's sales. Our excellence came in the per capita department. 
Analysis of the report at noted that it was implausible, sometimes, to attribute the sales to a state's citizens. Delaware, for example, leads in per capita shoe sales, which probably means that shoes are made in Delaware, rather than meaning that people in Delaware buy a lot of shoes. For another example, New Mexico tied Colorado for fifth place in the number of tortilla manufacturers with ten, but our sales were too small to be reported. California has 38% of the nation's tortilla manufacturing business and leads in the value of shipments per capita.
During 2002, New Mexico has nine casino "establishments" and total receipts of $678.9 million, good for sixth nationally. (For economic number counting, an establishment is a business location. A firm can operate more than one establishment.) The take was $366 per capita, $103 ahead of Nevada. Nevada ranked behind New Mexico, probably because casino hotels are a separate category. 
New Mexico had 15 establishments doing "non-metallic metal mining and quarrying" in 2002. The sales were $132 million, fourth nationally. I didn't see a per capita rank.
There were 44 establishments providing "all other miscellaneous ambulatory health care services" with total sales of $110 million in 2002. Our rank was 15th. Receipts per capita were $59.
The fourth industry for New Mexico was small, employing 894 in 2002. It was the 30 "other technical and trade schools." Sales were $68.9 million, ranking 19th nationally. Those sales were 1.66% of national receipts, about three times New Mexico proportion of the population, suggesting a happy interest in education. Receipts were $37 per capita.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Job Growth: December Under 1%

Wage jobs in New Mexico grew less than 1% during 2007. The Department of Workforce Solutions released the figures January 24. The exact number is 0.9% growth for the year from December 2006 through December 2007. That means 7,300 new jobs during the year. The statewide  employment rate has finally started up, hitting 3.7% in December after bottoming at 3.1%, a 31-year low, in October. New Mexico's job growth rate is now 28th among the states.
The four metro areas added 7,700 jobs during the year. Doing the math, that means rural areas of the state lost 400 jobs. For the metros, the 2007 job growth rate and the number of new jobs were:
Albuquerque: +0.9%, 3,600 jobs.
Farmington: +1.9%, 1,000 jobs.
Las Cruces: +1.3%, 900 jobs.
Santa Fe: 3.5%, 1,000 jobs.
The Department continues unimpressed with movie jobs, again pointing out the short term nature of the employment. The information sector, which included movie work has added 300 jobs over the past year. Fluctuations along the way have been large. Even with the movie jobs, information sector employment remains below the peak of 2001.

Friday, January 25, 2008

State Gross Domestic Product

New Mexico Business Outlook ( is the electronic newsletter from the New Mexico State University College of Business. It provide illuminating if sometimes technical explorations of the state's economy. The latest, by Dr. Richard Adkisson in January issue, considers state domestic product, an economic measure roughly equivalent to the national GDP. To get the number, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis adds labor income, business taxes and capital income for each state. Nationally, New Mexico claims one half of one percent of the nation's GDP. Our state GDP per capita ranks 40th. The state's population is 36th nationally, suggesting that we are less productive than our proportion of the population. The New Mexico GDP is 81% of the nation's. Delaware, which has a population about the size of metro Albuquerque, is first in per capita GDP and produces 156% of the national average. Alaska, at 6th, and Colorado, 7th, are the highest ranking western states in per capita GDP. The states below New Mexico tend to be in the south.
Between 1997 and 2006, the state GDP grew 36.6%. Five sectors increased their proportion of the state GDP: Durable goods manufacturing (think Intel), information, agriculture, professional and technical services, and health care and social assistance. Over the period, the fastest growing sectors were durable goods manufacturing, information, professional and technical services and agriculture. Sectors shrinking in size included nondurable goods manufacturing and a key tourism sector, arts, entertainment and recreation. Another key tourism sector, accommodation and food services, did grow 17% during the decade but dropped in its contribution to state GDP from 3.2% to 2.6%.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Arizona Outlook

When growing, Arizona's economy races ahead of New Mexico. When not growing, Arizona's economy races behind New Mexico. We know Arizona's situation because the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona tells us. See This is different from New Mexico, as has been noted here before.
The new issue of Arizona's Economy says the state probably already is in recession. That means shrinking total employment. Real estate is the biggest source of trouble. Arizona is one of the four states hit worst by foreclosures. Construction has lost 23,600 jobs since May 2006 with more losses expected. Manufacturing is down 6,100 in the same period. Financial services is down 2,200 jobs since May 2007 with more coming as mortgage lending operations close. Further losses are seen in real estate support businesses such as title companies, landscapers and real estate brokers. Residential building permits, 65,459 in 2006, may bottom out at 38,500 in 2008 with 30,000 a possibility.
The brunt of all this excitement is in the Phoenix-Mesa metro area. Wage jobs in Tucson should grow slightly this year with residential building permits dropping "only" 4.2%.
Arizona's Economy also reported the first detailed look at the business of astronomy and planetary and spaces sciences research in Arizona. Most of the money comes from various places in the federal government, making it a "basic" industry in economic developer's vernacular. Eleven observatories were among the 22 organizations responding to the study's survey. These organizations employ about 1,800 people, a quarter of them Ph.Ds. Similar numbers should appear for New Mexico, if anyone ever asks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

$90 Million Tax Hit: HB 51

New Mexico and the economic developers trying to build the economy dodged a potential $90 million tax increase yesterday with the tabling of House Bill 51. The bill said, "A unitary corporation that is subject to taxation under the Corporate Income Tax and Franchise Act shall file a combined return with other unitary corporations as though the entire combined net income were that of one corporation."
What that means is that a company doing business in several states through separate corporations would have to pay corporate taxes on the whole operation, rather than on what is earned in New Mexico. It would have been a nice application of the adage of "tax the guy behind the tree." 
Santa Fe's very liberal Democrat Peter Wirth has offered the proposal for four years. For some reason, Brian Moore, Clayton Republican, cosponsored this year. Moore said little during the bill's presentation to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.
Wirth came with his liberal ducks in a row including economist Gerry Bradley of Voices for Children ( and an attorney from the Multistate Tax Commission (, which is currently chaired by Jan Goodwin, New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary.
For the first time, bill proponents had linked the tax hike to children by directing the money to school spending. Thus, opposing the bill meant harming children, so they said.
Committee chair Rep. Ed Sandoval, Albuquerque Democrat, sought a show of hands from those in the audience favoring and opposing the bill. Opponents seemed to win that numbers battle, bolstered by the chance appearance of members of the New Mexico Industrial Development Executives (IDEA), in Santa Fe for a conference that included a seminar on participating in the legislative process. IDEA is the professional group of New Mexico economic developers. At the start of the seminar, IDEA members were told that HB 51 was on the agenda for the afternoon and then were told it was to be heard soon. The group dropped the seminar and headed for the Capitol.
Sandoval asked ten people from the audience to comment, five for one side and five for the other. Advocates seemed to be the standard Santa Fe anti-globalization, anti-competition types seeking purity and protection for their home market which just happens to be a world-class destination resort and therefore of appeal to "corporations." Opposition speakers tended to be senior lobbyists. They said collateral effects of changing one piece of the tax code were unknown, that the amount of money to be raised really was unknown, though claimed at $90 million, and that changing the corporate tax rules would deter companies from doing business in the state. One lobbyist cited an email of concern, received an hour before, from a firm that has just announced a major plant for the state.
As I left, House Speaker Ben Lujan had just finished a detailed and polite grilling of a lobbyist for Wal-Mart.
The bill might come back to life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Prayer and Health

At the Governor's Prayer Breakfast this morning (It was two degrees in Santa Fe when it started), Gov. Bill Richardson acknowledged he wasn't supposed to talk about specific issues, but he chuckled and said he was going to anyway. The issue was his health care plan. (See for the plan.) By chance, the Governor's plan pitch came with the public unveiling, via a page one story in USA Today, of a federal law prohibiting states from requiring or regulating benefits provided by employers. This law could mean trouble for states including California and New Mexico planning to require employer payments. The law in question is a small part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) which supposedly was reviewed thoroughly last year as part of the work that prepared for the administration's proposal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Federal Transportation Report

The report of the National Surface Transportation and Revenue Study Commission didn't have much that was state-specific. The report was released January 15. See 
The report says, "Too many of the Nation's highways, bridges and transit systems are already in disrepair." The report did not specify the number that was acceptable to have in disrepair.
The report finds appeal in the idea of public-private partnerships, though recommends care in cutting deals that, for example, have private entities running toll roads. New Mexico does not have public-private partnership enabling legislation, the report says on page 49 of volume one, the recommendations volume.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Movie & Web Site Production

Today's Albuquerque Journal has a story about the disruptions movie production is laying on downtown Albuquerque. The reports started coming out a couple of months ago. In a sense it comes down to the old systems rule about never being able to do just one thing. We have noticed large trucks blocking our favorite park spots and have grumbled, though willing to go with the flow. Our mother, age 88 and slow of foot, is less charitable. The movie trucks and such made it difficult for her to find a downtown cup of tea last week.
The state's movie subsidy—25% cash rebate off the top—may have become the third rail of New Mexico politics, sort of like the subsidizing of ethanol production in Iowa. This is the conclusion from a casual lunch conversation Saturday at the Annual New Mexico Industries Conference at the University of New Mexico. Any change won't happen during the Richardson administration, one man said. Angry thought and comments were tossed at those wondering about the size of the subsidy spending. Also on Saturday, we read, a proposal to cap the subsidy bit the dust. 
At the conference there also came an answer to why Web sites are so big on using colors of type the people can't read. As an example, check the light grey and blue at In the smallest sizes it disappears. The answer came because we asked at the Web and software development panel, which included Chantal Foster, founder and design of DCF. Elaine Montoya, a co-founder of Zocoloco Studios and a designated ace with Adobe products, gave the best answer. She said there are Web site design templates that specify colors. Ms. Foster was less specific but seemed to say the same thing. A guy in the audience commented that products existed allowing one to override the protocols specifying unreadable type. Such products represent a classic subsystem, created to fix a flaw in a system. In other words, people using these design templates don't think.
Ms Foster said DCF gets 500,000 page views each month. Those views come from 50,000 people. Good for her. 

Sunday, January 13, 2008

UNM/BBER Economic Forecast

Those attending the economic forecast event hosted January 9 by the Bureau of Economic Research at the University of New Mexico got to pay again for a tiny portion of information they had already paid for. What that means is that UNM's forecasting service is almost entirely paid for with tax money. It also means that UNM produced a detailed sector by sector quarterly forecast for the state and the four metropolitan areas—Albuquerque, Farmington, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Though financed by the public, UNM reveals only a tiny part of its forecast to the public. The reasons are bureaucratic and won't be repeated here, in part because UNM has long since won its battle for continued public financed near secrecy. 
The information that follows is taken from the presentation materials that are on BBER's Web site. Dig a while, and you can find it. See:
Following a decent, but entirely bare-bones historical sector summary of the state, the metros and a couple of counties, the forecast began with statewide job growth: 1.6% in both 2008 and 2009.
Annual job growth forecasts for eight sectors followed. Highlights:
Natural resources and mining: 2.2% job growth in 2008 followed by four years of job losses.
Professional and Business Services: 1.3% in 2008, then 2.6%.
Information: 4% in 2008, 1.8% in 2009.
The other sectors shown on the forecast were either government of support sectors such as construction. The other two basic economic sectors were not shown on the forecast. They are manufacturing and Leisure and Hospitality, the tourism sector.
Statewide job growth, 1.2% between November 2006 and November 2007, will have to improve to meet BBER's forecast.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bosque del Apache Sign

As mentioned about ten days ago, this sign, at the entrance to a trail at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, brings a new, to us, genre of bureaucratic expression with the phrase, "non-motorized recreation experience." Though our map said it is a trail, apparently it is a road. The graphic on the sign indicates it is closed to bicycles, suggesting the potential for only non-wheeled recreation experiences. The graphic raises the question of whether wheel chairs, motorized or otherwise would be allowed.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NM Business Journal

The magazine has folded, finally. The notice came in a story posted yesterday by the New Mexico Business Weekly. The bit of sadness at the news of the demise comes from having been the founding editor of the BJ in its magazine incarnation in 1978. It was preceded by a tabloid directed at real estate. 
The BJ was often on financially shaky ground, except under the ownership of George Hackler. Beyond the financial issues, a continuing credibility problem came from linking editorial coverage with advertising purchase. That aside, a publication always has the challenge of producing an interesting and useful editorial product, which is necessary to keep people reading the publication and viewing the ads. In later years, the BJ did not meet that challenge. 
However, even in this day of Internet news, statewide business magazines still exist. Last fall the new owners of Corporate Report Wisconsin said they gross close to $1 million annually. 

Capitol Report in the Mail

Capitol Report was mailed today. To ensure timely delivery before the legislative session starts next Tuesday, we opted for first class mail. Those receiving the magazine should have delivery in a day or two. If you are not receiving Capitol Report, go to, click on the magazine cover and look at page three. At the bottom of column one there is information about how to subscribe.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rural Economic Development

The next New Mexico First Town Hall will attack rural economic development. See: for more information. Rural New Mexico, by population, isn't quite half the state. And sometimes communities that are statistically urban in some sense are really very rural. My favorite example is Counselors, just inside "Albuquerque" by virtue of being just inside Sandoval County, one of the four counties in metro Albuquerque, but also 100 miles from Bernalillo. Cuba, also, is in the Albuquerque metro area.
The Town Hall will be March 27 - 29 at the Inn of the Mountain Gods, just outside Ruidoso. Town Halls are intense, structured discussions among a hundred or so folks (in smaller groups) that seek consensus policy recommendations. 
Economic development discussions can get unreal. I remember a recent pitch for Internet connectivity everywhere in New Mexico. Hmm.... In Counselors, a metro community? Or Claunch? Or Nutt?
Yet the rural challenges are large. Start with Harding County which has fewer than 800 people. If Harding County merged with Union County, the combo would still have a population under 5,000. Economic development in such places is not some new manufacturing, it is something like fixing a bridge.
Something like ten New Mexico counties are among the nation's poorest 250. About the same number are losing population. Three others besides Harding and Union have populations under 5,000, which raises the question of merger partners.  Northern New Mexico is a rural ghetto, idealized by rich Anglos and aging hippies who sell real estate. But, oh no, don't affect my culture, as was said by a Northern New Mexico native in an economic development meeting.
Positive things do happen. Ganados del Valle and Tierra Wools in Los Ojos remain a model. There is the arts colony in Silver City. And good stuff in Mora, which has long since shed its mantle of the state's lowest per capita income county. Larger rural communities such as Roswell and Clovis are a different challenge. Then there is Hobbs, where the main problem is to somehow find about 3,000 new folks to work.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Los Alamos and Las Vegas

Landmark Communications of Norfolk, Va., announced January 3 that it is exploring the sale of the company's businesses. The Weather Channel is the big one and that potential sale is one of those big business items not relevant to New Mexico. However, relevance comes in the petty cash department. Landmark owns two New Mexico community newspapers, the Los Alamos Monitor and the Las Vegas Optic. While either paper certainly would fetch in the tens of millions, opportunity knocks. Landmark has hired JPMorgan and Lehman Bros. to help them think about things.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Alfalfa Variety Test Report

New Mexico's variety of one of its great joys and frustrations. The 2007 New Mexico Alfalfa Variety Report is a result. The report is posted in the economic reports section at The report does engage in a bit of the obvious. It says, "Choosing a good alfalfa variety is a key step in establishing a productive stand of alfalfa whether for hay or pasture." NMSU estimates that alfalfa hay produce sales of $218 million in 2007, up $52 million from 2006. Alfalfa hay is the state's leading cash crop. Run alfalfa through a cow and its value jumps due to the "sale of meat, milk, and other products from livestock enterprises," the report says.
Alfalfa is rated by local adaption and persistence, winter hardiness, disease resistance, insect resistance, and nematode susceptibility. NMSU tested alfalfa varieties over several seasons in Las Cruces, Artesia, Clovis, Los Lunas, Tucumcari and Farmington. Statistics tests were applied to the results to be sure the performance differences were real and not random. 

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Economic Development: The Base

The New Mexico State University College of Business e-newsletter, "New Mexico Business Outlook," has a useful review of economic base studies in the December issue. See: Economic development, in the formal sense as opposed to the political platitude sense, is all about growing the economic base. Step one is to define the region, says Dr. James Peach, NMSU economist who wrote the article. 
The economic base consists of those activities that serve an export market. That means that the result of the activity leaves the local market, however defined, and is paid for by money coming into the market. For Las Cruces, Peach notes, NMSU serves an export market, though probably not entirely.
NMSU has completed 35 economic base studies, Peach reports, one for the state, one for the four-county Albuquerque metro and one for each of the 33 counties. To find the studies, go to: 
Peach is one-third of the NMSU economic team that reviewed the New Mexico economy for the coming issue of Capitol Report New Mexico. The new issue will be in the mail next week. Tony Popp and Chris Erickson were the other authors.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Banking Report

New Mexico had 65 banks as of June 30,2007. This information and much more comes from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, one of the bank-regulating entities. More precisely, we have 65 banks (including thrifts and state and national banks) for which the FDIC insures deposits. Among them, the banks had 505 offices in the state and $21.9 billion in deposits.
The big guys are Well Fargo, the market leader with 98 branches and $4.6 billion in New Mexico deposits, 20.9% of the market total, and Bank of America with 53 "banking centers" and $3.4 billion in deposits, 15.7% of the market total. 
First Community Bank, a public company headquartered in Albuquerque, is third with 8.2% of the market (NM deposits of $1.8 billion) and 37 branches.) Last time I looked, which has been a couple of years, Wachovia, a very large North Carolina-based bank, was First Community's largest shareholder. 
Los Alamos National Bank, had $1.2 billion in deposits and five offices, two each in Los Alamos and Santa Fe and one, with no deposits, in Albuquerque. While Trinity Capital Corporation, parent of Los Alamos National Bank, probably has a non-New Mexican shareholder or two, it most likely is the state largest pretty much locally owned bank. Citizens Bank, with $417 million in deposits, leads in San Juan County and also is privately held.
Charter Bank is the state's largest thrift.
Only 17 banks each have more than 1% of the deposits. The state's smallest bank, by deposit total, is DRSM National Bank, which had assets of $3.2 million and deposits of $500 million, on September 30, 2007. DRSM has one office, located in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights. New Mexico's second smallest bank is a thrift, Irwin Union Bank of Columbus, Indiana, which is south of Indianapolis. Irwin Financial Corporation, parent to Irwin Union Bank, has ten offices spread among eight states.
The coolest names go to the Farmers and Stockmens Bank of Clayton and the James Polk Stone National Bank of Portales.
The bank market share report is posted under Economic Reports at