New Mexico’s economy is booming. The state added almost 15,000 jobs in 2019, placing it among the top 10 states in the nation for job growth during six consecutive months. This remarkable momentum is a result of economic strength among a wide range of industry sectors including manufacturing, professional services, film, energy, and aerospace to name just a few. And it’s coming from all sources; recruitment of new companies, the rapid expansion of existing employers, and a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem of cutting-edge, innovative start-ups.
The state continues its long history of attracting leading scientific innovators. Kairos Power, headquartered in California, chose Albuquerque for a new R&D center focused on state-of-the-art modular reactor technology. The company will initially employ 67, with an average salary of over $100K, and invest as much as $125M. Virgin Galactic is in the process now of moving the remainder of its operations team from Mojave, California to New Mexico’s Spaceport America in anticipation of commencing launch operations. As of January 2020, the company has already moved 60 percent of these team members to New Mexico.
New Mexico is a major center for the film and television industry, and it continued to see remarkable growth during the past year. In late 2018, Netflix chose New Mexico for the location of its first ever U.S.-based production hub, and this year it began executing its plans to employ over 1,000 people per year. NBCUniversal also announced that it would be building a studio in Albuquerque, creating 330 jobs and investing over $500M. These two companies also developed a partnership to launch a training program for film production jobs to serve New Mexico’s growing industry demand. They will each donate $55,000 per year over the next decade to support the program.
The success of the film industry and the availability of the Film and Media Tax Credit – which rebates up to 30 percent of eligible spending on film and digital media production in New Mexico – is helping to launch the growth of another industry; video game production. Ganymede Games selected Las Cruces, New Mexico as the location for its new headquarters in 2019, they will hire an initial team of 51 in the near-term to begin development of their first game. Ganymede is comprised of industry veterans that were attracted to New Mexico by the state’s unique advantages. “We left the high cost, noise, and density of high-tech cities when we discovered Las Cruces, which is affordable, offers a higher quality of life, and now we have plenty of wilderness to explore both in-game and out-of-game,” said Jerry Prochazka, CEO and Founder.
When legislation was passed nationwide in 2019 legalizing industrial hemp, New Mexico rapidly leveraged its position as an agricultural leader and put in place policies that would facilitate the growth of this industry. One of the first companies to capitalize on this was Rich Global Hemp (RGH). After a multi-state search, RGH relocated its headquarters from Nevada to Mesilla, New Mexico and acquired and renovated a greenhouse facility of approximately 800,000 square feet. They will hire 180 and invest over $19M. A key factor in their decision was the support from state and local government on establishing a highly favorable regulatory environment and the eagerness of New Mexico State University, one of the nation’s premier agricultural sciences institutions, to collaborate with the company.
At the end of 2019, New Mexico demonstrated that it continues to be a major player in financial and business services when Faneuil, the Virginia-based business process outsourcing company, announced their establishment of a new site in Albuquerque, joining other leaders in this sector like Fidelity Investment, T-Mobile, and Bank of America. Faneuil plans to rapidly grow this new site to 700 employees.
Of course, New Mexico has long been an energy powerhouse, and its position as a leading oil and gas producing state continued to grow in 2019. The state is 3rd in oil production in the U.S., a jump from 4th in 2018, and 10th in natural gas production. This is largely thanks to massive deposits located in the Permian (in the southeast) and San Juan (in the northwest) Basins.
Why is all of this happening in New Mexico? It’s in the heart of the fastest growing region in the nation. The state has a strong pool of available talent, plentiful land and low commercial and residential real estate costs, a lack of congestion, as well as favorable economic policies. It has a very high concentrations of talent in engineering and the sciences, thanks to its long history as a world-class research center; it’s home to a host of R&D institutes including two national Department of Energy Labs (Sandia and Los Alamos) and the Airforce Research Lab. Additionally, there is a very strong pipeline of new talent coming from its universities and colleges; over 133,000 students (about seven percent of the state’s population) are enrolled in its higher educational institutions.
New Mexico’s strategic location also plays a large role in what makes the state so attractive to businesses. It’s centrally located, being equidistant by rail from two major port regions (LA/Long Beach and Houston/Galveston), as well as being proximate to 75 percent of the U.S. population within two-days via road. This is in addition to having one of the fastest commercial crossings with Mexico via the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.
The state has focused proactively on maintaining a business-friendly environment, and implemented some of the strongest incentive programs in the U.S. In 2019, the state demonstrated its commitment to attracting new investment in a very tangible way by increasing incentive funding. Funding for LEDA (the state’s discretionary grant program) for the 2020 fiscal year was increased to $75M. The legislature passed a bill raising the state’s Film and Digital Media Tax Credit, an integral tool used by the film industry in the state, by more than double, from $50M to $110M annually. The state continues to earn accolades for its Job Training Incentive Program, widely acknowledged to be one of the strongest training incentives in the nation.
Despite these many advantages, New Mexico remains affordable for both employers and the talent they rely upon; cost of living and compensation have remained below the national average, even in its largest Metro areas.
“The Southwest is booming, and New Mexico is at the crossroads of this growth; and we’ve prepared for it. We have an available and highly trained workforce. We have a business-friendly atmosphere. We are strategically located and we have access to critical infrastructure. On top of this, New Mexico also offers a low cost of living with a high quality of life, virtually no natural disasters, and a wilderness playground that can’t be beat,” said Tim Nitti, President & CEO of the New Mexico Partnership, an organization responsible for helping businesses locate in the state. “Most importantly, businesses of all types and sizes, coming from any region of the world, are welcome and valued here, and everyone from the local business community up to the political leadership in the state is eager to help companies thrive when they choose New Mexico.”