At the conclusion of Western New Mexico University’s 25th annual basic rural economic development course last week, students presented prescriptive economic development strategies for three New Mexico communities — Doña Ana, Sierra and San Juan counties — to three of the top economic development minds in the state, who were hypothetically seeking to underwrite the implementation of these plans.
Using real data, the students assessed each communities’ strengths, needs and estimated what it would take to bring the necessary number of jobs to completely wipe out unemployment and boost the economy overall in their respective communities. Their presentations are archived here.
The group assigned to assess Doña Ana County wrote a jobs-focused plan to enhance and strengthen the economy over ten years. They guessed the county would need to add 14,115 jobs to sustain growth in a decade and assessed that the county will likely get a majority of those jobs from the employer theater and through SoloWorks, a new economic development approach centered on remote workers and solopreneurs. The group highlighted the amount of unused and non-market-ready land in Las Cruces, fleshing out the potential of one city-owned lot. They also identified a lack of grocery stores and gas stations in the border town of Santa Teresa, pointing out the corresponding loss in gross receipts tax. Finally, they laid out plans to attract employers of remote workers and soloprenuers.
In order to grow the population of Sierra County and create jobs there, the second group of students based their plans on the anticipated growth of Spaceport America and the expected re-opening of a copper mine. Sierra County needs to increase housing options, develop the downtown area, and improve the quality of education to suit the 1,300 projected workers who will be moving in, the group said. They presented a two-phase residential development vision and some actionable steps toward creating a charter school, detailing teaching theories to match the science-minded population.
The group of budding economic developers who assessed San Juan County’s economic prospects said the area needed 1,819 jobs to cover job loss from attrition, unemployment and population decrease. They proposed a program expected to produce jobs and also bring in money to fund a second job-enabling endeavor. The group laid plans to attract a solar energy park, funded with state money and by Chinese investors, that would supply the local area and produce enough power to be sold to a California company. The profits would fund SoloWorks projects in San Juan County and allow at least 70 people to carry out remote work while being based in that region.
WNMU’s 25th annual basic rural economic development course ran July 22 – 26 and was attended by representatives — elected officials, public employees and civic leaders — from communities all across the southwest. Students learned theory and looked at how New Mexico communities have coped with population changes and its related effects on public services. They are now prepared to become certified economic developers by the International Economic Development Council.