A brief analysis of ABQ Mayor Tim Keller’s economic development ideas

The Keller Administration laid out some ideas it has with the intent of “turning the local economy around.” After what ultimately proved to be a disastrous Berry Administration with its lack of focus on crime/homelessness and its monomaniacal effort to bring an unwanted bus system to town, Mayor Keller has a lot of work to do and a low bar over which to hurdle.

It is worth noting that Keller has also built up some goodwill among fiscal conservatives like RGF by opposing generous subsidies for TopGolf. That being said, Keller’s economic development plan leaves a lot to be desired. Below I go through the points one by one.

1. Increment of One: We can help businesses create local jobs one at a time by using existing economic development tools. If homegrown entrepreneurs are able to scale up their businesses, they can be game-changers right here in our city.

Great idea, but what is the City of Albuquerque going to do to help? Are there specific rules and regulations that can encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs in our City? At least one specific idea would be helpful.

2. Buy Local: We’re using the buying power of the city to systematically swap out-of-state contracts for contracts wipth local vendors. By using local businesses for our goods and services, we can keep millions of tax dollars in our local economy. We’ve already done this with coffee and business cards — simple purchases that should come from local businesses.

This may be the worst specific ideas in Keller’s plan. While there is nothing at all wrong with using local vendors it makes no sense for taxpayers to pay higher costs for lower quality service/goods. If the local business can win in the bidding process then use them, but there are no “local” automobiles and there are many other products/services that just aren’t readily-available and in high quality here.

3. Smart Recruitment, Retention and Expansion: We will use economic incentives wisely to attract businesses that create good-paying jobs, grow sectors where we have a competitive advantage, and grow the size of our economy – not just divide up the pie.

Every politician says this ALWAYS. To be fair, Keller’s attempted veto of TopGolf subsidies was a sign that he’s not just going to throw subsidies at any business that comes to town demanding them.

4. International Business: We can capitalize on our unique placement along two major interstates, our international airport, and our foreign trade zone while promoting Albuquerque as a strategic location for foreign small to medium-sized enterprises.

Another obvious idea.

5. Creative Economy and Film: Our creative economy is an important element in the economic vitality of Albuquerque. Our unrivaled culture, cuisine, art, music and film industries are key to economic development and to our way of life.

We know film subsidies are a boondoggle, but they are the State’s boondoggle. It is hard to blame Keller for willingly pandering to this heavily-subsidized industry, but it would be better if Keller would push Santa Fe to oppose wasteful film subsidies like he opposed TopGolf subsidies.

6. Placemaking: The measure of any great city is the degree to which people and places are connected. We’re focusing on core city locations and engaging communities as we re-develop areas like the Rail Yards, the Tingley Beach-El Vado-BioPark corridor, the multiuse development at Central and Unser and the new Civic Plaza.

Every Administration over the past 50 years has attempted to develop downtown. The past Administration believed that ART would be its contribution to the Central Avenue corridor. Perhaps a focus on fighting crime and homelessness would be worth discussing in this six point plan? How about tackling the numerous permitting challenges that caused one business man to say, “I’m not going to do another project in this town ever, ever again.”

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3 Replies to “A brief analysis of ABQ Mayor Tim Keller’s economic development ideas”

  1. Keller has been an Energizer Bunny of cheerleading and flashy initiatives in support of the first rule of politics: Look busy. The permitting challenge you mention will be a good indication of whether Keller is serious about supporting business. I recall that a restaurant opening in the highly-promoted Green Jeans Farmery was delayed because of city permit problems. Streamlining business permits is a no-brainer that will not cost the taxpayers a dime. Let’s see if Keller does it.

    1. Agreed, to be fair to Keller, no one else has done it (that I’m aware of). Top-down culture change is hard whether that is the federal bureaucracy or the state/local. And neither Berry nor Chavez seemed willing to take it on. We’ll see what Keller does if anything. The plan as written certainly is not adequate to the task at hand.

  2. The really hard changes like regulations, permitting, removing a city minimum wage, are not going to be done because it appears to be countering the liberal culture and big government agendas which have occurred over the years. These folks are great on verbiage and desperately short on constructive action. Early in his administration there was a filled room gathering in Hotel Albuquerque to listen to him about his innovative development plan which was so confusing, contradictory that I got up and left near the end of his rambling. I sat near the front and my action was not lost on the audience or him. There are so many vendors, businesses that are scared to death of the power of the city to harass them, shut them down for code violations, that they stay quite silent. I know businesses on Central who vehemently opposed ART but wouldn’t say anything because of the potential impact the city could have exercised on them. I have taken on City Hall in court and won in at one venue, but the cost was enormous and lost the business which was doomed anyhow from so many regulatory agencies attacking at once. If we do not show up and protest at every council meeting, public speaking forum he holds, and take action in court on every existing or new rule, we will not overcome the SWAMP called The City of Albuquerque. His homeless plan is about as worthless.

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