Monday, July 31, 2017

What Happened to Albuquerque?

A couple of weeks ago a friend asked what had happened to Albuquerque. We had been discussing the city’s “situation.” What follows is an edited version of my response with names deleted to protect the guilty and the innocent.

I still lack a good answer, but here are a few thoughts.
1. Intel peaked around 1994 with 5,700 employees plus about that many contractors. Phillips, DEC. and Signetics went away. The support firms for the “Silicon Mesa” went away. The data analytics business in Santa Fe didn’t grow much and then faded
2. The Abq-based public companies went away: Diagnostek, Santa Fe Pacific Gold, Nuclear Pharmacy, Furr’s Supermarkets (probably not much net job loss there as we still have to have supermarkets), Sun Healthcare (run by Andy Turner).
3. Jerry Geist was finally run out of PNM in 1990, but PNM struggled for years and Abq operations remain well below the scale of when they filled two downtown buildings.
4. The banks got in trouble in the late 1980s. Sunwest was taken over by Boatmen’s around 1994 and then Boatmen’s was swallowed by Bank of America. BofA laid me off from Sunwest in 1997. Over time BofA let the NM operations erode. I don’t know why, but I have watched the numbers. Administrative functions went to staff of the big banks in larger markets. The local administrative and banking staff such as loan officers retired or left town or went to credit unions such as Sandia Labs FCU. Getting loans became more difficult. BofA keeps their trust-related attorneys in a cave in Phoenix. (long story.) Bank of Abq runs advertising and marketing from Tulsa, home to poppa, the Bank of Oklahoma.
5. The banks have largely left downtown Abq. The Hyatt was the last big building in downtown. 20 years ago.
6. The contractor population at Sandia is down.
7. The auto dealer chains are a big factor with little interest in community, at least as compared to when the stores were owned by locals.

We have become a community of branch plants (a state really). Look at the boards of the Abq Chamber and ACI. They are heavily populated by corporate government relations types, who will have no authority to take any action. Lawyers and healthcare types dominate the ACI executive committee.

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