New Mexico lawmakers converge upon five-day economic forum

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SANTA FE, N.M. – A five-day course in economic development is giving New Mexico lawmakers the chance to learn about how to represent the state’s best economic interests.

The course is geared toward helping lawmakers steer the state toward success in a rapidly-changing business landscape.

"It’s a great course to take leading up to the next session or two," state Rep. Moe Maestas said. "We all just have to focus on our economy as we exit the pandemic."

From expanding the current industry to diversifying and drawing new businesses in, a variety of topics are being discussed in the course.

"Here in New Mexico, I think it is clear that the traditional industries will not be enough to move New Mexico ahead in the next two decades," state Rep. Phelps Anderson said.

According to experts and lawmakers, schools are going to play an important role in shaping the state’s future.

"We hear of a great workforce deficiency and yet we suffer one of the highest unemployment rates which is certainly not a winning concept," Rep. Anderson noted, "so I believe that we’re going to continue to see a refocus on workforce development through developing the skills and education necessary to meet these future jobs."

The next legislative session is short and has a distinct focus on the budget. Still, it is unclear how deeply lawmakers will be able to dive into these economic development priorities.

"In terms of policy recommendations, there really aren’t any bills proposed," Rep. Maestas said, "but it’s up to us as public policymakers to come up with policy solutions for some of these issues."

With a record-setting $8.8 billion revenue expected this budget year, New Mexico has plenty of money to work with.

"You know, we have very high reserves and we have the ability to make up to a billion dollars in investments statewide," Rep. Maestas said.

"I think we face some very good years," Rep. Anderson said. "Now, we must be smart about where we apply these public monies to do the best."