Working 4 the Future: Why the pandemic is drawing people to New Mexico | KOB 4

Working 4 the Future: Why the pandemic is drawing people to New Mexico

Tessa Mentus
Created: November 22, 2020 10:30 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Early on in the pandemic, Sally Plunkett and her family were ready to get out of Portland, Oregon for a number of different reasons: the high cost of living, small living space, and a lot of COVID cases. 

"After living in the city for a while, I kind of started having the yearning for more a more simple, slow life,” Plunkett said. 

Their new beginning came down to two states: Idaho or New Mexico. Eventually, Plunkett decided New Mexico was the winner. 

"The weather is pretty ideal because we found a place that almost perfectly fits our dream home, our dream location,” she said.

The pandemic has many others considering trading in their overcrowded, expensive, big city nightmare for a piece of southwest paradise. 

According to a recent study from Business Insider and Hire A Helper, New Mexico was ranked second in the nation for having the most people move here during the pandemic. Idaho was No. 1.

Another study from USA Today ranked Albuquerque 14th on a list of the top 20 cities seeing a boom in new residents. 

"It's been organized chaos,” said Linda Devlieg, a realtor. 

Devlieg has been a realtor for the metro area for more than 25 years. She said the influx of new residents is setting records. 

"We were used to a market where we had maybe two or three offers at one time and that was like, wow, that's amazing. To have 20 or 30 where you're just literally taking up your entire dining room table trying to examine all of them—I've absolutely never experienced that kind,” she said.

In the third quarter of 2020, home sales in the metro area topped $1.2 billion, which is a nearly 30 percent increase compared to this time last year. 

In October, homes in the metro stayed on the market for an average of five days before going under contract,  and realtors sold 36% more metro homes last month than in October 2019. 

"We went from an average, comfortable, seller's market to 'Oh my gosh, we don't have enough houses to sell.’ A  different level of house was selling quicker than it has before, the landscape changed like, overnight,” Devlieg said.

While most newcomers are charmed by the new, exciting parts of New Mexico they can see on the surface, there are some downsides. 

"I think the way we get them to sink roots here is by putting our best foot forward from the very beginning,” said New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. 

Egolf  said the mad rush for New Mexico is on lawmakers’ radars. 

"The Economic Development Department is doing a very good job bringing companies into New Mexico, but also supporting our homegrown talent,” he said. “We're finally starting to see spinoffs from the national laboratories stay here. We have some really incredible things happening with vaccine manufacturing and that's here in Santa Fe, you know, maybe in Albuquerque as well."

Egolf claimed that solutions are already in the pipeline to address the state’s biggest concerns, but they require money and Egolf said the state needs to start diversifying how we make it. 

"We don't want to kind of take one industry, like oil and gas, it accounts for 40 percent of our state revenue and then replace it with something else that's 40 percent, right? We want to get 10, you know, 10 industries that would each contribute 4 percent,” he said.

Investing in industries like film, biotechnology, clean manufacturing and health care innovation are some sectors that Egolf and his colleagues see in the state’s future post-pandemic. Recreational marijuana money is also on the agenda for lawmakers. 

"New people from different areas are going to have different demands, and so we want to make sure we're ready for that as well,” said Devlieg. 

It’s important to remember, however, that what brought people like the Plunkett’s to New Mexico in the first place are things money can’t buy. 

"Learning the history and the culture of this area because it is so rich,” Sally Plunkett said. 

"Everything here is closer, easier, calmer,” Devlieg said.

"Our people, the ‘can-do’ spirit that is part of being a New Mexican, it's all here,” Egolf added.

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