McClure: Time for private sector to take lead in economic growth
New Mexico Business Weekly by Dennis Domrzalski, Reporter
Date: Friday, October 12, 2012, 2:02pm MDT
New Mexico needs a statewide economic development plan to revive its economy, and that plan should be developed by the private sector and not the government, New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Beverlee McClure says.
“I’m starting to hear employees and business owners say, ‘Let’s get a plan,’ and maybe it’s time for the private sector to do it,” McClure said in an interview with the Business Weekly.
“If it comes out of government there will be a [political] divide. Neither side wants the other side to be successful and we kill everybody. Maybe it’s time for the private sector to start helping the private sector.”
McClure said New Mexico’s recession, which began in February 2008, was more severe than people believe. Official reports by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions say the state lost about 53,000 jobs during the recession. McClure said the job losses were probably in the 70,000 range.
“In February of 2008, we began a slow process of bleeding to death,” McClure said.
McClure added that the state’s improving unemployment rate – 6.5 percent in August – isn’t a true reflection of the state’s economy because that number is driven in part of the state’s labor force, which has decreased over the past three years. And New Mexico still has fewer jobs than in 2008, McClure said.
According to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solution’s Sept. 28 report on the state’s economy, the state’s civilian labor force peaked at 946,487 in 2008, and stood at 919,681 at the end of August.
The state had 903,902 jobs in 2008 and 859,949 at the end of August, Workforce Solutions’ report said.
“The unemployment rate is not a measure of the economy. Jobs are,” McClure said.
The looming federal budget cuts known as sequestration represent a potential economic “tsunami” for New Mexico because of its heavy reliance on the federal government, McClure added. It has been predicted that New Mexico could lose 22,000 direct federal jobs as a result of those federal budget cuts. Private sector jobs that serve those federal employees will also be lost, McClure added.
While New Mexico’s business and political leaders should have been working 20 years ago to build a more robust private sector and lessen the state’s dependence on the federal government, that hasn’t happened, McClure said.
But it’s time to start.
The ACI is hosting an economic policy summit in Albuquerque on Nov. 13, McClure said. The organization has also launched an economic gardening pilot program to help nine small businesses across the state grow.