Sunday, December 13, 2015

Colorado Column, 2014, No. 2

Harold Morgan/ New Mexico Progress

“Oil Curse” Is Invented

By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress

Forty-fourth is New Mexico’s position on a State Competitiveness Index from the Beacon Hill Institute, and it’s included as the first item in “Toward a More Competitive Colorado,” an annual publication of the Denver Chamber of Commerce.
Eighth place for openness and environmental policy was New Mexico’s highest competitiveness sub-index ranking.
“Competitiveness is a useful concept that points us to the micro‐foundations — the right mix of policies and endowments — that lead to prosperity,” Beacon said in announcing the 2013 rankings. As usual, our neighbors ranked well above New Mexico. Colorado, Utah and Texas were, respectively 7th, 8th, and 9th.
Definitions of economic competitiveness are fuzzy. One suggestion is how well a state marshals resources for prosperity. In the political and policy dialogue, competitiveness seems to mean how well one state compares to another for those businesses seeking a location for a new facility.
State competitiveness leads the economic vitality section. The remaining ratings are for “new economy,” employment growth, gross domestic product per employee, per capita income and economic outlook.
At 37th among the states, our economic outlook isn’t that bad. We could be New York (50th) or Vermont (49th). Vermont and New York lead per-student spending in public schools. We should be with Utah (1st) and Arizona (7th). The outlook comes from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The Innovation category leads with a state innovation index from the federal Economic Development Administration that seems to measure pervasive technology. Massachusetts leads, with California second, Idaho third (no idea about that one) and Washington fourth (Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) New Mexico is 25 for 2013, down four places from the two previous years.
Montana and Alaska, respectively, lead the entrepreneurial index. We are eighth, well above the innovation rank. For California and Colorado, innovation and entrepreneurialism rankings closely associate. I wonder if New Mexico’s situation might be much more characterized by the one-person businesses. As a percentage of employment, New Mexico’s proprietors are 29th. The small business survival index ranks New Mexico 27th.
In theory, our long leadership in the ratio of research and development spending to state gross domestic product should translate to high per capita R&D spending at our universities. Wrong. The academic spending rank is 21st after being sixth and ninth a few years ago. One can only speculate about the reasons.
The Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science index puts us 22nd for 2012. Massachusetts, Maryland, California and Colorado lead in that order. We do have a lot of high tech employment, sixth per 1,000 workers, but apparently they aren’t that well paid; the average wage is 22nd. Curious.
New Mexico’s oft-cited sunsets apparently add little livability. The well being index places us 33rd. The Dakotas lead. Money and employment must bring happiness. Check with Lea and Eddy county residents on this point. Third place Nebraska is nice but without the psychic sunset appeal. The football, perhaps?
Our sunsets draw few people. Our 2013 population growth placed 48th, ahead of coal-ridden West Virginia and really cold Maine. Utah and Colorado, both blessed with functioning economies, are second and third in population growth.
A thorough review of the Competitive Colorado report might spark understanding of our state’s situation. Or as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Nov. 4 in his election victory speech, “We believe you should build the economy from ground up that’s new and fresh and organic.”
For now we’re stuck with the latest Albuquerque pundit complaint that we have an “Oil Curse,” that masses of resource money will destroy us just like Equatorial Guinea and other sixth world countries. That’s wrong, bizarre, stupid and insulting.
New and fresh and organic. I like that.

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