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ABQ Free Press Forum: Candidates Answer Economic Development

ABQ Free Press Forum: Candidates Answer Economic Development

The good news is that most of the eight mayoral candidates know what an economic base job is.

The good news is that most of the eight mayoral candidates appear to know what an economic base job is.

That’s a piece of knowledge and understanding of economic development that is crucial. If a candidate doesn’t know that, all their talk about economic development is just talk.

An economic base job or company is basically an export job or company, meaning 60 percent or more of what they produce is sold outside the state or metro area. Those jobs bring new money into the state and they are the only way a state or metro area can grow their economies.

Service sector jobs don’t grow the economic pie; they only cut it up into smaller pieces.

We asked the candidates how many economic base jobs the Albuquerque metro area needs to get back to full employment and what percentage of those jobs are needed to replace the ones lost through attrition.

Seven candidates responded. Dan Lewis did not respond.

Here are the candidates’ answers in the order that they responded:

Wayne Johnson

1. How many economic base jobs do we need to create over the next eight years in the Albuquerque metro area to get back to full employment?

“In 2016, the New Mexico Jobs Council reported that the state would need to create 15,000 economic base jobs per year to get back to pre-recession levels. One would expect that number to be somewhere around 5,000 jobs per year in the metro area to achieve pre-recession levels and full employment.”

2. What percentage of these new economic base jobs is needed to replace the jobs we’re losing to attrition, and what percentage is needed to support the new population growth you expect?

“Roughly 50 percent of the jobs created would be needed to account for attrition while the other half would need to go to job seekers entering or re-entering the job market.”

Susan Wheeler-Deichsel

“I have done a bit of due diligence on these two questions and have found lots of different figures out there.”

“What was not as challenging to define was the number of skilled labor jobs that even at the present time go unfilled by local applicants, and these tend to be well-paying blue collar jobs.

“And the levels of skill aren’t huge, and some even offer on-the-job training and bonuses.

“Over the next eight years, Albuquerque will also (unfortunately) have to take into consideration the number of residents of the city that choose to move elsewhere and those who, due to their experience that Albuquerque’s job markets don’t offer many viable opportunities, who have now dropped out of the workforce.

“Nonetheless, under my leadership, I plan to move the needle of employment upwards through multi-faceted training programs that utilize internships offered by local firms who need more staffing. At the same time the city will convene heads of companies to identify the talents they desire from individuals to clarify and implement strategies to fulfill those employment needs.”

Michelle Garcia Holmes

1. How many economic base jobs do we need to create over the next eight years in the Albuquerque metro area to get back to full employment?

“I’m going to focus only on my first four-year term. The first four years will be critical as I will get a handle on the crime wave we are experiencing in Albuquerque to energize our economy, job market and small business community.”

“It’s my opinion that if I can’t get a handle on crime in my first four-year term, the public should not re-elect me for a second term. Local business leaders, like Green Jeans and Lavu, have voiced the warning to our city that if we can’t control our crime, they will leave this city.

“Sadly, I’ve been told this by many other businesses that they are ready to close down and leave too. For a mayor who cannot get this historic crime epidemic under control, there will not be any jobs left in Albuquerque. We are at a crossroads and if the stagnant declining job market lasts any longer, I believe we will be spiraling into a second recession. This employment issue, or lack of employment issue, needs to be broken up into subparts:

“First: I want businesses to have an environment that will foster new local job growth and be fertile ground to create new businesses and entice companies that want to relocate to this beautiful Rio Grande Valley. This will simply not happen if we continue to be a crime-riddled and drug-infested dangerous city.

“Second: There is a disconnect in Albuquerque with teens and young adults regarding employment. We have many teens who are neither working or in school. These numbers affect our unemployment rates. The problem becomes more acute after young people have graduated from high school.

“We are not providing our businesses with an educated workforce. We must have more collaboration with our educational facilities, keeping in mind what the needs are of our business community. We have to remember that in 2014 we had 10,000 applicants for just 150 jobs at the Coronado Center Cheesecake Factory.

“Our citizens want to work. They’re willing to work; they just need jobs. Many will take any job that is offered.

“Third: We must have a mentality of support when it comes to working with our small business community. I will not support the proposed sick leave ordinance as it is a job killer for Albuquerque. Several of the mayoral candidates agree that the ordinance has devastating consequences, but they will be supporting it anyway.

“We must break away from partisan politics as usual in Albuquerque. We also need to examine and modify our tax structure for businesses. Our local job market is so fragile and struggling we must be careful not to add on more burdens, laws and costs for our local job providers.

“I want as many jobs created in Albuquerque as there are unemployed citizens needing and searching for employment. Every job counts and I will work hard to make Albuquerque more business friendly so that our families can thrive.”

2. What percentage of these new economic base jobs is needed to replace the jobs we’re losing to attrition, and what percentage is needed to support the new population growth you expect?

“The next mayor needs to delve more into finding out what are the “Top 10 Growing Industries” and look at what we have here in our city to support. We also need to be a more diverse job market so we are not so dependent on government jobs. It’s obvious that Albuquerque can become stronger in the fields of technology, manufacturing, and health care.”

“We need to work with the education institutions in our city, starting with middle school, high school and colleges (both trade and universities). We need to continually work with our school systems to collaborate and be sure the schools are teaching according to the growth needs in our nation, and most of all in our city, to support job growth.

“We need to work on programs to keep our youth that is disconnected from the job market to wanting to learn, and knowing what opportunities lie ahead for them in the future, and support these trainings to keep our youth in our school systems and job markets.

“Next, our city needs to work with the businesses to develop intern programs with high school students to get them interested in the growing fields. We need to focus again on the increment of one in our city for existing businesses to grow at least one job per business and especially in those top 10 industries.

“We are not losing jobs just to attrition; we are losing our small business base and we are losing are large business base.

“UNM STC had 12 new patents approved that start-up entrepreneurs created last year. Eight of these startups left before they even attempted to launch a company in Albuquerque.

“As mayor, I always want us to think out of the box. I will bring new leadership in the Economic Development Department that will completely change how Albuquerque will market and promote itself. We have to be aggressive and hard-working to keep our existing businesses while simultaneously attract new ones.

“We have to quit giving our local contracts away to out-of-state companies. We have companies that we can create to supply these requests. We have to acquire larger portions of Sandia Labs supply line and foster new tech company spin offs.

“I would like to see Albuquerque become a retirement destination for the entire nation. We have the weather and the health care already needed to accommodate this new industry. Retirees come with their own revenue and don’t require new job markets. We have to quit watching the bad statistics come in and start working to end this stagnation. A safe city will be a prosperous city.”

Ricardo Chaves

1. How many economic base jobs do we need to create over the next eight years in the Albuquerque metro area to get back to full employment?

“We need to gain 12,000 jobs just to get back to where Albuquerque was in 2009, when Dan Lewis and Mayor Berry took over the economy. The city actually won’t be creating jobs, however, the private sector will.”

“But we have to make it easier for businesses that have left to come back to Albuquerque, and for local businesses to expand. And of course, we must solve our crime problem, before businesses will take a second look at us.

“The city’s own projections show Albuquerque’s recovery is lagging more than four years behind the national economy. That’s unacceptable, and we can do better. If we cut spending, and cut regulations, I know business growth will take off.”

2. What percentage of these new economic base jobs is needed to replace the jobs we’re losing to attrition, and what percentage is needed to support the new population growth you expect?

“The percent of these new jobs replacing those lost to attrition will of course be determined by the market, but many skilled workers will be needed to replace retiring baby-boomers in the coming years and I want our school system to step up to the challenge of sending our kids into the workforce prepared.”

Brian Colón

1. How many economic base jobs do we need to create over the next eight years in the Albuquerque metro area to get back to full employment?

“The City of Albuquerque needs to create approximately 7,000 economic base jobs over the next eight years to get back to full employment. This estimate was formulated using the most recent unemployment rate for the City of Albuquerque (5.6 percent) as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

“By using the reported 23,839 currently unemployed residents and applying a ‘full employment’ goal of 4 percent, 7,000 new jobs must be created to reach full employment. The 4 percent goal is set forth as the most optimistic metric in defining a ‘full-employment unemployment rate,’ which ranges from 4 to 6.4 percent, created by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for the United States.

“Having economists agree upon what the term ‘full employment’ means, as well as the exact number of jobs necessary to reach full employment, is virtually impossible. It has been fairly acceptable for economists to define full employment as the ‘natural rate’ of unemployment, which is the unemployment rate when tight labor markets begin to generate higher wage inflation. Using the Federal Reserve Board’s estimates of today’s ‘natural’ rate of unemployment, a range between 5 percent and 5.2 percent unemployment would satisfy the definition of full employment.

“According to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, ‘Albuquerque’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in February’ of 2008. Using the 3.3 percent unemployment figure as a goal, based upon the current population of Albuquerque, another 3,000 jobs would need to be created to reach the highest level of employment the city of Albuquerque has obtained in recent history.”

2. What percentage of these new economic base jobs is needed to replace the jobs we’re losing to attrition, and what percentage is needed to support the new population growth you expect?

“In general, the city of Albuquerque needs to grow the percentage of existing jobs approximately 2 to 3 percent to replace jobs lost to both attrition and expected new population growth. The 2 to 3 percent estimate is based upon the number of current jobs in the Albuquerque marketplace and the percentage of growth required.”

“Part of the challenge in answering this question comes in the subjective nature and changing circumstances of the terms ‘attrition’ and ‘new population growth’. In creating an economic and social policy regarding setting employment goals, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers stated, ‘The best social policy is a high-pressure economy in which firms are chasing workers rather than workers chasing jobs.’

“In addition, Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said ‘[We favor policies that] get us to and keep us at full employment, by which we mean a very tight match-up between the number of people who want and need to work and the number of jobs.'”

Gus Pedrotty

1. How many economic base jobs do we need to create over the next eight years in the Albuquerque metro area to get back to full employment?

“The best metric for economic base jobs, made available with full consensus from the New Mexico Jobs Council, is broken down at the county level. All data and citations can be found through this state council’s report.

“Understanding Albuquerque’s prevalent role in Bernalillo County, it’s fair to say these numbers are close to our needs as a metro area and we need to cooperate towards these metrics for regional success. Through cooperation among and re-calibration of our programs, these numbers can be achieved and even exceeded.

“We need roughly 40,000 new economic base jobs by 2025.”

2. What percentage of these new economic base jobs is needed to replace the jobs we’re losing to attrition, and what percentage is needed to support the new population growth you expect?

“By the same group and metrics, we need about 27,000 of these jobs to compensate for attrition so more than half. Meanwhile, we only need about one fourth of these jobs to account for growth (about 10,000 economic base jobs).

“Attrition is among the most harmful issues facing our economy right now, and too many of our jobs come from dependent or service sectors. Luckily, if we engage each of our economic theaters, we have the potential to exceed the number of economic base jobs needed in our communities.”

Tim Keller

1. How many economic base jobs do we need to create over the next eight years in the Albuquerque metro area to get back to full employment?

“In June of 2017 our unemployment rate was 6.2 percent. To get to 4 percent unemployment, often considered ‘full employment,’ we will need to add approximately 9,000-10,000 net new jobs.”

“I believe the most effective way to accomplish this is to turn the economic development incentives currently directed at luring a big company to relocate to Albuquerque toward existing, growing small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians and makers in order to foster homegrown job creation.

“Creating one new job at a small business or enabling an artist to create their own business will have a much broader impact on our economy than the way we’re currently using our economic development dollars and incentives. I will do this by literally using the vast array of tools such as tax increment districts and the like on companies located and growing inside the city, creating ‘mini IRBs’ or ‘mini TIDDS’ for businesses that have previously been ignored.

“It also means leveraging these various tax tools to support minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts. This will help create careers and provide a path to higher wages to help retain our best and brightest.”

2. What percentage of these new economic base jobs is needed to replace the jobs we’re losing to attrition, and what percentage is needed to support the new population growth you expect?

This percentage depends on the type of job, whether it’s an economic base job, and what the wage is for the particular job. We should be creating as many opportunities as we can for economic base jobs by focusing on the great work being done by those who are already here.

“Based on work with the legislative jobs council and other research, I estimate about half of the jobs I hope will be created during my time as mayor will be economic base jobs. And we should aim to have these incremental jobs pay at least $1 above the average wage rate in our region.

“The most straightforward way to approach this is to put local businesses first with all our economic development tools and with city contracting, rather than hoping we lure a ‘unicorn’ company here to hire us all for high wages.

“We can use our buying power to ensure local businesses are the providers of goods and services for the city and partner with universities and existing companies to create new opportunities for entrepreneurs which will replace the millions of tax dollars currently sent to out-of-town vendors. As auditor I’ve studied how tens of millions of dollars are sent out of state every year from our metro area, in many cases despite local businesses being able to provide the same work. For example in the IT sector, every 10 cents on the dollar we keep here in town will create 100 new high paying jobs!

“I also believe that we can become an ‘energy neutral’ city and demonstrate national leadership and create local jobs in energy by using structures and integrating solar, wind, and distributed generation to make the city’s net energy bill zero.”

Dan Lewis

Did not answer.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

Latest posts by Dennis Domrzalski (see all)