The Albuquerque Journal recently published: “Census Wakeup Call: State’s low growth shows the need for tough conversations and big political improvements.” This column shows where New Mexico’s rank lags behind that of neighboring states. The question is how to solve this problem. New Mexico needs to have a vision for its economic future and a strategy to implement that vision, but where are we now? Let’s take a look at the data comparing Bernalillo County to high tech, Utah County, Utah where Provo is located.
Between 1998 and 2014, Utah County had a median household income that was $ 15,000 higher than that of Bernalillo County. In 2015, Utah County’s median household income was $ 19,000 higher than that of Bernalillo County. By 2019, this difference had grown to $ 23,000. For most states, their largest city leads the economic development of that state.
Cities with high tech and private sector economies eg Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Chandler, Provo, etc. In general, high-tech cities have median household incomes of $ 80,000 or more; large cities in the interior of the United States with no private sector, high-tech economy have median household incomes of $ 55,000 to $ 60,000; and rural areas and small towns have median household incomes of $ 40,000 and less.
In 2017, according to a Brookings study, Albuquerque had a per capita investment of $ 259 in academic research and development (R&D) in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), compared to just $ 60 for Provo. More than $ 3,000 per person is spent on R&D in New Mexico – the nation’s fifth largest – while Utah spends $ 1,200. New Mexico is unlikely to prosper from more investment in R&D unless it learns how to get more out of its R&D funds.
Many believe that high-tech jobs like those created in Utah are only available to masters of science and doctorates. STEM graduates. However, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has determined that even though STEM employment supports 69% of U.S. GDP, 60% of STEM professionals hold less than a bachelor’s degree.
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The congressional bill, The Endless Frontiers Act, lists key technological areas that the United States must address to be economically and militarily competitive with China: artificial intelligence and machine learning; high performance computing, semiconductors and advanced computer hardware; quantum computing and information systems; advanced robotics, automation and manufacturing; prevention of natural or man-made disasters; advanced communication technology; biotechnology, genomics and synthetic biology; cybersecurity, data storage and management technologies; advanced energy; and materials science, engineering and exploration relevant to other key technologies.
These are the technologies that New Mexico’s defense labs will focus on in the future. At 25% of the state’s GDP, these defense laboratories are our most important economic asset; during their boom, oil and natural gas accounted for 10%.
New Mexico has contracted SRI to lead our state’s strategic planning effort. The state targets the “industries” of outdoor recreation, value-added agriculture, global trade, advanced manufacturing, biosciences, film and television, cybersecurity, aerospace and renewable energies. Four of them are listed in the Endless Frontiers Act. It is imperative that our state does its strategic planning well and does not focus on building industries with low median household income. As the data shows, we went and we did.