Thursday, May 26, 2011

Private Sector Adds Jobs Over the Year

Government more than accounted for the 2,600 wage jobs the New Mexico economy lost between April 2010 and April 2011. Government lost 3,200 jobs for the year. The Department of Workforce Services didn’t put it that way in the April job report, release late this afternoon.
But, folks, doing the math shows that the private sector added 600 jobs for the year. DWS might call in their often invoked “sampling error” whine to discount my conclusion. Certainly the number, 600, is quite small in the face of 603,100 private sector jobs for April, one-tenth of one percent, and could disappear with the wave of a sampling feather.
Even so, with the shortage of good news for our economy outside of Las Cruces until this month, I’ll take it.
With the private gain and the government loss, slightly more than 25% of the state’s wage jobs are in the private sector.
Eight industry sectors added jobs year-over-year. They are leisure and hospitality (+4,000); Education and health services (+3,600); retail (+1,500); wholesale (+400); mining (+1,500); finance (+1,000); other services (+700); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (+700).
These gains offset the 8,300-job loss in professional and business services. This sector is critical because of its size (91,900 jobs in April 2011) and high pay.
Albuquerque and Las Cruces provided the loss of 7,400 jobs with 6,300 of those year-over-year losses coming in Albuquerque where ten of the 12 main job sectors lost. Albuquerque’s loss leaders were construction (-2,500); professional and business services (-1,300); and information (-1,100).
Santa Fe added 900 net jobs with private sector growth of 1,200 jobs. In Santa Fe, 27,3% of the wage jobs come from government.
Farmington added 100 jobs, year-over-year.
Only three counties now claim an unemployment rate of more than 10%. They are Luna (20.7%); Mora (15.5%); and Guadalupe (10.1%).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wilson Speaks to Economic Forum; Martinez Appears

You could cut the many layers of irony with a knife at the Economic Forum in Albuquerque this morning. Heather Wilson was the speaker. Wilson, the former U.S. Representative and now a candidate for Senate, was to talk about federal fiscal matters. A surprise attendee was Gov. Susana Martinez who sat next to Wilson at the breakfast. Martinez did not speak.
Yesterday, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez announced his candidacy for the Senate. Also yesterday, Martinez said she would give Sanchez no tasks beyond his limited constitutionally mandated duties, which mostly consist of presiding over the state senate. Remember that Martinez spent two years running for governor, a full time task, while remaining on the government payroll and district attorney in Las Cruces.
More layers of irony come from history. Jay McClesky, Martinez 2010 campaign strategist and still her political adviser, was one of three people who invented Sanchez back around 2000. The other two were John Dendahl, then NM GOP chair, and Sanchez himself.
During her time at the podium, Wilson said nothing about Sanchez.
One man at my table wondered, “What is Sanchez thinking?” The man, a bit confused, actually said Garcia.
The Economic Forum describes itself “as a non-partisan business leaders group founded in 1982 which is funded entirely by membership dues and is dedicated to the continued improvement of our community.” See
Wilson mostly stuck to her assignment of discussing fiscal matters, but touched on foreign affairs at the end of her talk.
“America must always stand for freedom,” Wilson said. She “was stunned” at President Obama’s suggestion (or whatever it was) that Israel should retreat to its 1967 borders. “I find that (Obama’s suggestion) inexplicable.” Wilson has been to the Golan Heights, the area that overlooks the main part of Israel and which was controlled by Syria until 1967. She has looked across Israel and understands the small size of the country, which she related to Albuquerque. Guns on the Golan Heights compare to having guns on Albuquerque’s heights able to shoot into the valley. Scary.
Wilson said she came “to talk a little bit about the federal budget… so that we can educate ourselves about the challenges.” As a topic, she said the budget is a bit geeky, but talking about it is necessary.
“Government does not create wealth; it can create the conditions…”
“Washington’s current policies have turned a fiscal challenge into a fiscal crisis.” The public debt is an adjustable rate mortgage, but which she meant that the interest on the debt is certain to increase. She sees a potential national security problem because China owns a large proportion of the debt.
Wilson supports raising the federal debt ceiling, but “not without taking dramatic steps” to reduce spending. “We do not have a revenue problem in the federal government. We have a spending problem in the federal government,” she said.
Vigorous applause came when she said that besides the Obamacare health plan being incredibly expensive, “that health care bill is unconstitutional.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Customer Not So Friendly kMart

This afternoon's adventure was buying razor blades at the neighborhood kMart.
The choice was two packages of five blades each for a total of around $30.00 or one package of 12 blades for around $30.00. Hmm...
The trouble was that the 12-blade package was locked onto the display. It hung from a metal arm. A red plastic device prevented removing the blade package. On the plastic device the instruction was to see a "sales associate." The trouble was that sales associates weren't exactly hanging around looking to be helpful.
I finally flagged a cashier who turned to the service desk. The people there had no clue. A young man appeared and stepped into the situation. He, too, had no clue, but finally found an assistant manager, who seemed to have some idea that the red plastic device was really there on purpose. However, the assistant manager could not locate the specialized tool required to remove the red plastic item. Finally I persuaded him to simply cut the blade package from the metal arm.
This is dumb, kMart dudes. Dumb.

Friday, May 20, 2011

April Jobs Show No Real Change

New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped half a point between March and April, according to figures released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The April rate was 7.6%. In March it was 8.1%.
The seasonally adjusted numbers show New Mexico with an April 2010 to April 2011 drop of 4,700 (or 0.5 percent) in the labor force, and a 2,500 increase (0.3 percent) in employment.
Both the employment and labor force changes are trivial. The unemployment rate change looks nice and will get headlines.
I wonder if the locals, in the face of kinda-sorta positive news will invoke their usual mystical claims about survey problems to say things aren’t as good as they look.
“Non-farm payrolls,” seasonally adjusted, were 805,400 in April 2011, down 400 from April 2010. That “change,” 0.05% or five hundredths of one percent, is no change at all.
These sectors were up from April to April: Trade, transportation and utilities; finance; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality.
These were down: professional and business services (down an ugly eight percent); government (minus one percent); construction and manufacturing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Albuquerque Chamber Emails

Three this afternoon and its only 3:30. Just one yesterday, blessed relief. I really need to put the Chamber's email into my block list. The honor will be well earned.

Museum Mailer Makers Miss Mark

Every so often designers of communications pieces get carried away and produce something with a design that gets in the way of the message. The designers should know better, but management for sure should know better.
My latest example comes from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. The Foundation works on behalf of the Museum(s) of New Mexico, one of the states great institutions. This criticism come from a friend.
Received last week, the two-piece card-stock, full color item (one wraps around the other) was folded three times. The front panel headline said, “Home Lands How Women Made the West. The photo on the front panel was of a person standing on a ladder adding adobe to a wall. One cannot tell the gender of the person. The upper right corner of the front panel was cut away, an expensive design touch. The fourth panel was perforated for easy detaching. This panel looked a little like a bookmark, but far from obviously so. Just now, while writing, I saw the tiny type saying, “Detach here for your keepsake bookmark.”
Best of all, the piece came in a clear holder. The address was printed on the mail piece, which was then inserted in the holder, which, in turn, was supposed to be closed via a strip of adhesive on the flap. The trouble was, the adhesive on my neighbor’s mailer stuck to my envelope. I got two mailers. The neighbor got none. Certainly others got two sets of this expensive mailers.
I would have to see the mailing machine to understand what happened with the technology. What I know did happen is that the designer got cute, the machine didn’t work as planned and the message suffered.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Conference Notes: Uranium Fuel Cycle, Chpt. 3

Remember that these are, well, notes. The value is in gaining an indication of the presentations. Being notes, this material is far from complete.
Conference presentation materials are available at

Gregory OD Smith, CEO, Urenco USA, LLC: Urenco’s diagram of the nuclear fuel supply chain is especially useful. Urenco’s enrichment plant near Eunice has been the nation’s largest construction project for the past four years. Smith expects the project to retain that honor for several more years in the future. Phase 2 f the plant is underway. Phase 3 is in the planning stage.
Former Sen. Domenici is the only reason we’re in New Mexico.

Steve Laflin, president and CEO, International Isotopes, Inc. The Idaho-based firm is a public company. They do nuclear medicine and other things. They are developing a deconversion facility about 18 miles west of Hobbs. Components will come from a plant in Gore, OK.
Deconversion is “a special part of the front end” of the fuel cycle. There is material left over from enrichment, i.e., left over from what Urenco does. International will get its supplies from Urenco. It will strip the fluorine and turn it into comme3rcial industrial products.
The formal design started in mid-April. Customers are talking about co-locating on the site.
The impact of the Japanese (Fukushima) disaster “was fairly immediate.” A $30 million offering on the Toronto stock exchange was in the works and was being sold the day of the earthquake. The demand for the offering disappeared within hours. The investment community has walked away from nuclear—for now.

Dan Lopez, president, New Mexico Tech: He is convinced that Tech needs a nuclear degree within chemical engineering.

John Kelly, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy: U.S. government support of Fukushima—Daiichi:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent 30 people to Japan. DOE sent about the same number. INPO, the industry group, sent people, as did national laboratories including Sandia. “Virtually all of our laboratories were involved.”
Lawrence Livermore modeled the fallout plume. “Expect insignificant consequences” from radiation release. Current situation: quasi-stable. “Accident forensics” is the major current and future activity. This gets to the “lessons learned” activity.

Van Romero: New Mexico Tech: It’s too early to tell really what went wrong with Fukushima—Daiichi (or what went right”). Romero provided detailed mapping of the Fukushima reactors.
The amount of radiation found in milk on the West Coast can be measured in minute amounts. Such tiny amounts pose no harm. The radon levels inside Carlsbad Caverns are 2,000 times the standard surface level.
Dealing with Spent fuel will be the major lesson learned from the situation.

John Kelly, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy: The Department of Energy is very excited about small nuclear reactors, known and small modular reactors or “SMRs.”. DOE “want(s) to re-establish the United States as a leader in the nuclear field.”
Small nuclear reactors bring all sorts of advantages. They will be very safe and secure. They cost much less that large units. They can be made in a factory, that is, in a controlled environment. Units can be added incrementally as demand grows. Location can be underground, enhancing security. They are air cooled instead of water cooled, a benefit in the water short West.
A record exists on building small reactors. Nuclear reactors for submarines are built in factories.
The DOE interest is to “enable the development of a fleet of SMRs.”
DOE sites are being considered for SMRs. The TVA has proposed the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Kevin Butterfield, B&W Nuclear Energy Inc. B&W is Babcock and Wilcox. B&W’s SMR project is a joint venture with Bechtel called Generation M Power. B&W saw “a kind of a sweet spot” in the 100-to-1,000 Megawatt range. Butterfield reiterated the SMR advantaged listed by Kelly, above.

CEOs Rate NM Not the Worst

New Mexico ranked 32nd for business in the newly released 2011 survey of chief executive officers by Chief Executive magazine. We dropped three places from 2010. See
A number of stories on the site analyze the results.
The top five states are Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and George. The bottom five are those you would expect: Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and California.
The site selection leaders are Utah, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma, the magazine said. Note that four of those states border New Mexico.
For the complete list of location factors counting the most, see
The leading location factors are state income and corporate tax rates, perceived attitude toward business, cooperative employee-management relationship (that must mean unions), employee work ethic, crime rate, and quality of public education.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

UNM Computing PhD Joins NASCAR

This man, in his late 20s, graduated from UNM yesterday. In about two weeks he will start work as track day technical lead for a NASCAR team. Earnings will be in the low hundreds, as the phrase goes.
Is that cool or what!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Home Sales Drop in April, Defy Seasonal Pattern

Figures just posted by the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors (GAAR) show that sales of single family detached homes declined in April. Yes, the decline was tiny. April 2011 had 567 sales while April 2010 had 570. The performance defies the general seasonally trend that Albuquerque sales increase during the April and build to a summer peak.
This is the sixth year out of 14 years, going back to 1997 that sales have dropped from March to April. However, go back just ten years and sales have dropped March to April in only three years. Further, last April’s increase doesn’t really count because the figures were inflated by the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit that ended in April 2010. April to May sales last dropped in 2006 and 2007.
The future is exactly pretty either. That’s because pending sales, the leading indicator for closed sales the following month, were the 903 in April, the same as March.
The problem is simple—jobs. Though metro Albuquerque wage jobs increased by 1,000 in March over February, the annual performance (March 2010 to March 2011) showed a 3,000-job loss. The March situation marked 30 months of year-over-year job loss, says the Department of Workforce Services. Those 30 months started in October 2008.
Median and average single family detached home prices—respectively $165,000 and $196,321—inched up in April, but fell well short of returning to the February levels of $171,750 and $220,299.
A multi-decade veteran of selling homes in metro Albuquerque puts it this way, “Never thought sleepy old Albuq would be so hit by these national trends. Suffice it to say, this has been the worst cycle I have ever seen.”
GAAR provides eight measures of market conditions. The measures report inventory, sales and prices. The only one showing a positive change from March was the average time it took to sell a home. That is, it took longer—twelve days longer on average—to sell a detached home during April 2011 that during April 2010. All eight categories were negative during April for condos and townhouses and by bigger margins than for detached homes. Only 37 condos sold during April. Those few that did sell, sold in 71 days, down 26% from the 96 day average sales period of April 2010.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Conference Notes: Uranium Fuel Cycle, Chpt. 2

Note that these are, well, notes. The value is in gaining an indication of the presentations. Being notes, this material is far from complete.
Conference presentation materials are available at

Dr. Virginia McLemore, Professor of geology, New Mexico Tech: Provides whirlwind tour of geology. Will post the slides. See:
“Today we’re looking at a mine as a life. No longer (just) explore, mine and walk away. Closure and post-closure are actively part of the equation. We do have a cycle now.”
“There’s uranium everywhere, but it’s not in a concentration that can be mined.” Mineable deposits are not conveniently located. Hydrology (water) has much to do with uranium deposit locations.
Unconformity related deposits are much of the Canadian resource. Very high grade. Must use underground mines. Prone to flooding.
Sandstone uranium deposits: Found worldwide. Much of U.S. resource is in sandstone.
Some drinking water resources in NM have uranium well over EPA standards, such as in the Espanola Valley. The uranium can be extracted.
Rare Earths may be concentrated in uranium deposits.

Mark Pelizza, Uranium Resources, Inc., of Texas: “New Mexico has the largest and best grade of uranium ore reserves in the United States.”
The reserves are in the Grants Uranium Belt, from Albuquerque to Gallup and north of I-40. The area can produce from 15 to 20 million lbs/year, “sustained.
NM Tech has a huge geologic library. There is a huge data base about the Grants Belt due to past exploration. Existing infrastructure such as shafts gives NM a jump in (re)starting production.
In-situ is becoming one of the major uranium production technologies in the world.”
If a uranium ore body is present in water, then the water is by definition, not drinkable.
The industry has a huge need for people—engineers, scientists, miners.

Jon Indall, attorney, Santa Fe: Represents the Uranium Producers of America and the Uranium Producers of New Mexico.
The World War II bomb uranium came from the Belgian Congo and from the vanadium on the Colorado Plateau.
“Nuclear is the only no-carbon option.”
Back in the 1950s, there were no regulations, no requirements. Then showed a slide listing the federal-level permits required, perhaps 20 or 30. The next slide showed NM permits required, maybe another 20 or 30.
In-situ is considered a milling process, not a mining process. Thus, there are different regulations and regulators.
The legacy issues are now part of the process before any mining is done. The means a reclamation plan with a bond. This includes measuring the conditions of the site before anything is done. The measuring provides a baseline for reclamation.
In Ambrosia Lake, there was no premining site condition measurement because such things were no in the process at the time. Thus, we don’t know the pre-mining conditions.
Hope to see production in NM within one year. (HM: The URI Churchrock project?)

Former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici: He would like to see two or three firm commitments from large banks to finance a nuclear power plant. During the next year, not only must we address the financing, “a commitment must be made by the United States Government, presumably) to dispose of the waste.”
Cite Wipp as something that works. Three months ago Domenici got eight members of the federal Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (Domenici is a member) to visit WIPP. None had been the salt beds. The group was hugely impressed. “The science has proved that this salt has not moved for 300 million years.”
“We ought, as a nation commit to do the research” to figure out what is needed to do to put high level waste into salt as a permanent repository. (One problem, he indicated, is that a stronger container is needed than the ones used for the WIPP waste.)
Then we should commit to an interim repository in a central location for high level waste. The problems can be confronted by “intelligent, knowledgeable people.”
He is very unhappy that a nuclear power plant loan guarantee program was sabotaged by the Bush administration. People are working to revitalize the program with the Obama administration.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Martinez Speech “Lame,” Fraught With Errors

Someone had to have liked Gov. Susana Martinez’ noon hour speech today to NAIOPNM, the New Mexico Chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Association. The size of the crowd, maybe 500 including about a zillion politicians, gives excellent odds of at least one happy listener.
But the speech wasn’t a “State of the State,” which was how it was advertised. Had Martinez honestly reported the state of the state, she would have had to say, “Not so good, but not as bad as it was.”

Rather, the speech was a report from Gov. Martinez after four months and two days in office. The report contained errors of fact, for which it gets an “F,” overreach, and a “lame” attempt at philosophy. The latter judgment came from a seatmate, a self-admitted liberal who wants taxes increased. On the cliché ridden attempts at bigger ideas, he was right.
A running rhetorical sideshow was Martinez inability to pronounce certain words and to get the right word in the right place, an odd situation from someone who had been talking in public and in courtrooms for years.
Martinez cited the success in expediting government projects of a new Office of Business Advocacy in the Economic Development. A water treatment plant in Las Cruces was one example. She touted a law favoring procurement from in-state businesses. Such a law is by definition a subsidy for local who compete less well with out of state firms.
The state’s tax structure hasn’t been reviewed in 15 years, Martinez said. I’m pretty sure she said 15. I know she didn’t say eight years, which was when the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission thoroughly examined the tax structure, only to have its considerable efforts blown off by the Richardson administration.
A staffer is reviewing the tax structure, Martinez said. The staffer doing the review, who Martinez said was working in her office, is in a cabinet department. Details, details.
Total credit was grabbed for Union Pacific’s planned multi-modal freight facility near Santa Teresa. The credit grab resulted from a tax exemption benefiting the operation that was supported by Martinez and nearly everyone else. In fact, the project has been in the works for several years, has been discussed for perhaps 25 years. The tax exemption was first passed several years ago, was extended once or twice (writing from memory, here), and was merely extended again this year. Extending the exemption may well have a lot to do with Union Pacific starting work, but Martinez cannot claim credit for the project itself.
Asked about the Spaceport by Albuquerque establishment leader Sherman McCorkle, Martinez bounced the question to Jon Barela, economic development secretary, who, Martinez said, had read the latest report. Barela said little, only that Martinez had “brought competence and accountability” to the Spaceport board and management, that some spin-off businesses seemed possible and that intermediate and long term benefits are expected.
In response to a questioner pitching putting the mislaid capital projects bill onto the call for the redistricting special session of the legislature, Martinez talked of having a “statewide plan,” an oft-mentioned truly scary concept that hasn’t yet happened in spite of decades of bureaucratic dreaming.
Jon Barela Sidenote: He’s a good guy and, I suspect, totally well suited for the economic development job he holds now. I’ve seen him in public situations twice in the last six days. Barela is thinking about running for congress again. (He lost to Martin Heinrich last year.) Based on what I’ve in these two presentations, on the performance last year and his dithering in considering a second race, I’m just not inspired about him as a candidate.
Photos by Mark Bralley

Conference Notes: Uranium Fuel Cycle 2011, Chpt 1

The conference was held in Hobbs, New Mexico, April 27 and 28, 2011.
275 registered for the conference. Among the many students in attendance were 23 from Lovington High School.
The speaker notes and associated comments below are in order of the speaker’s appearance. The notes posted here are not quite half the total. Expect the rest in two or three of four days.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce: “All you want as a consumer is to flip the switch. We confuse energy and power. “Power is truly what we need.” He is having continuing discussions with tribes about the legacy issues from uranium mining.
Jon Barela, Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department: He listed the principles for economic development of the Martinez administration. The principles are “so that we can create jobs.”
1. “Government must get its financial house in order.” Barela then linked financial probity to the deliberations of a firm considering where locate a facility. Barela confused “economic development,” i.e. recruiting companies to the area, with developing the economy. However important, economic development is an at-the-margins activity within developing the economy. The remark is another example of the Martinez administration’s failure to get into the question of what really should government be doing.
2. “Ensure we have a business friendly regulatory environment,” especially with regard to energy businesses. “Capital and jobs will flow to the course of least resistance.” “We will never, never compromise the environment.”
3. Three Cs: Competition, climate, culture. “Make sure New Mexico has a competitive tax environment.”
4. A workforce that is ready to take these jobs. Barela complemented the state’s workforce (seriously, apparently) and the community colleges.
5. Viable infrastructure—roads, broadband.
6. Maybe most relevant, “an environment that fosters innovation.”
In the past, economic development has been top down. “If it wasn’t film, we weren’t going to get involved.”
Barela closed with the myth and lie of energy security. He cited the lack of “an energy policy that makes us energy secure.”
Dr. Daniel Fine, New Mexico Tech. Fine had five minutes on the agenda. He took more than 20. Underlying this conference is the possibility of getting a small modular nuclear reactor in southeast New Mexico. Fine pitched the Babcock and Wilcox design.
Hyperion Power Generation of Los Alamos ( is commercializing a small modular nuclear reactor design developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Hyperion was not mentioned at the conference, which I find curious.
Dr. Peter Scholle, state geologist and professor of geology at New Mexico Tech.: The salt deposits in southeast New Mexico make the state the best place in the world for nuclear waste storage.
Even without climate concerns, nuclear energy has to be part of the mix. Renewables—wind and solar—will also be part. However, renewables are not available all day and all night, every day. Renewables will consume large amounts of land for their sites and large amounts of minerals for manufacturing.
Overall, the world has a lot of uranium, but presently is producing less than is being used. The United States produces only seven percent of the uranium it consumes. The rest comes from Russian nuclear weapons, a source that ends in 2013. The world-wide resources is “at least 100 years.” Reprocessing would greatly increase supply.
With regard to the Japanese nuclear disaster, Scholle said that as a geologist, he “could not have thought of the poorer place to locate a nuclear power plant.”
He added, “There is no completely harmless way of producing energy.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chinese Now Love Pecans; Stahmanns Helped Teach

A recent report said that the Chinese (in China) are going nuts over pecans. The huge demand—anything happening in China is huge—is driving up prices. The Stahmanns of Las Cruces, I'm told, help make this happen by having the patience to continue sales trips to China even after years and years of empty handed trips home. Now Stahmann Farms and other American growers are reaping benefits.
Stahmann's web site,, says nothing about China, but it says much about pecans.

Oil Patch Road Culture

Traveling last week east on U.S. 82 from Artesia, we noticed a few things that don’t happen in the north central urban area.
The road was two lane, but with a shoulder wide enough for trucks. In that part of the world, some trucks are heavily loaded, a function of the oil and gas business. Of necessity, they go slowly. For these trucks, driving on the shoulder offers a courtesy to other drivers, though one probably not anticipated by the highway designers. For the mostly urban driver, the apparently unusual behavior raises the question of what really is happening.
Other than the larger trucks, nearly all the vehicles on U.S. 82 are pickups, usually larger models. Nearly all these trucks are white.
While in Hobbs, we did see a couple of Halliburton staffers driving a red pickup matching their red jump suits. But the standard for Halliburton was red lettering on the side of a white pickup.