Is Albuquerque dying? More importantly, what can be done to save it?

For even the most detached observers, the last few years have been tough ones in Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole (outside of the fast-growing oil patch). So tough, in fact that author Wally Gordon recently penned a column questioning whether or not Albuquerque is “dying” in the same ways in which cities like Detroit have “died.” While I don’t have significant issues with Gordon’s analysis as far as it goes, he offers no serious policy reforms and, were he a self-identified “conservative,” he’d be immediately and harshly attacked as he lives in Edgewood, not Albuquerque.

Nonetheless, the potential “death” of a city in which I DO live is too significant to ignore. Is Albuquerque dying? I’d say “no.” While the economy is struggling mightily, none of the area’s major employers: Sandia, Kirtland AFB, or Intel have left. As you can see, this area is entirely too reliant on government jobs, but this is nothing new:

Unlike Detroit which was once one of America’s truly great cities, Albuquerque has never risen to those heights, nor has it experienced a total Detroit-style collapse. Were a base or a lab or Intel to close, this might change.

That doesn’t mean the situation is good:

Obviously, the police situation needs to be reformed, but the police and mental health situations are the result of, not the cause of our City’s maladies. The cause is our terrible economy and over-reliance on government. Unfortunately, the City has limited levers with which to work. Economic policy is controlled in Santa Fe, specifically by the liberal-controlled Legislature. Rio Grande Foundation has outlined 9 public policy reforms that the Legislature could move forward with right away, but the leadership in Santa Fe doesn’t have a clue about economics so they focus on raising the minimum wage and spending more money on pre-k programs.

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13 Replies to “Is Albuquerque dying? More importantly, what can be done to save it?”

  1. The Albuquerque business community needs to have a serious “come-to-Jesus” with all the local members of NM’s dystopic legislature.

    First up: use a 1-time chunk of that $20B “permanent fund” (a permanent subsidy to unions in NM’s failing Pub-Ed space) to cut all NM personal & business income taxes to zero…’permanently’.

  2. Not just Albuquerque, but all of New Mexico needs to wake up! Our neighbors in Texas and Arizona are both ‘Right to Work” states. Texas takes it a step further and has no personal state income tax. If we want businesses and individuals to come to New Mexico and thrive, we need to make it lucrative for them to do so. Until there is a pro-business mindset in the Round House, we will continue to go down hill.

  3. It’s not the Albuquerque is on the way down, it’s just that the El Paso-Las Cruces Metropolitan Stat. Area is on the rise with the new port of entry in Dona Ana. And look at that area when you include our neighbors in Mexico–heavy hitters like Foxconn and more to come. And Intel is not a sure thing…Tesla won’t build here and if the GOP gets both the House and Senate—-whoa. And even if Gov. Martinez get re-elected it won’t help ABQ. She’s for all New Mexico.

    1. I disagree with you Dr. Laime. While the border entry is a good thing, Albuquerque’s economy is in tatters. The difference between 2014 and 2007-2008 is palpable. 6-7 years ago people were moving here to work for Eclipse and this City had the feel of a place that was “on the move.” The economic crisis did great harm, Eclipse was a house of cards, and this City has very little in terms of a private sector economy. Rather than throwing a bunch of subsidies at the “latest and greatest,” we need sound economic policies. Unfortunately, the Legislature MUST play a role in creating those.

  4. Looking at the list of major employers, only Intel is relatively new, from the 1990’s. Of the 10, only Pres, Lovelace and Intel receive substantial amounts of private pay revenue. The other 7 survive almost exclusively on taxpayer dollars.

    To repeat what is not stated frequently enough, not a single Fortune 500 company has been started in N.M. Why is that? Because we have a state that is inimical and sometimes hostile to private enterprise. Why is that? Because there has been so much federal spending in the state since the 1940’s that we have not had to encourage private business. But what happens to us as the federal spending model breaks down as a result of budget constraints?

    Having lived in this state for nearly 40 years, I get the feeling that most of the Dem politicians are in a state of disbelief that the way things have been done since the 1930’s may be coming to an end. I have no sense that the Dem politicians or the voters of this state have yet accepted the new reality.

    1. I agree with you 100% Charles. Presbyterian and Lovelace are obviously health care, hardly the kinds of “private sector” employers that form the basis of an economy and hardly “private sector” when you look at American health care and ObamaCare.

  5. Excellent discussion here and points out , again, what we already know about the fundamentals of the local economy – cronyism in Santa Fe. Then again, do we really yearn for more traffic, people queuing up for services everywhere, crowds on the forest trails ala California?

  6. From: Nairn, Ian, The American Landscape, a Critical View (New York, Random House, 1965), 5-6.

    “One example, Albuquerque, for my money, is one of the stupidest wastes of human
    endeavor on this earth. It occupies a magnificent site between the Rio Grande and the Rockies, it pays no attention whatsoever to either, but simply goes on sprawling and spewing across the countryside to an endless repetitive pattern: without relationship, without identity. Yet, if it is a fearful mess, it is at least an honest mess. I would if I had to make the choice – but what a choice! – prefer it to the fearful mock-Spanish affectations of Sante (sic) Fe, where about six genuine Spanish buildings are lost in a welter of fake Baroque gables and commercialized Indian art. Albuquerque is the honest whore, Sante Fe is the wife who cheats.

  7. To quote an old political colleague, Jon Anderson, American Independent Party (1968), “We can’t get this country out of the RED until we get the REDs out of this country!”

    The same applies to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and New Mexico …

    BTW, to the webmaster … this ‘gray’ print is damned near impossible to read … ever hear tell of BLACK? It actually works very well against a WHITE background …

    Colonel Robert F. Cunningham,
    Aku Press, LLC.

  8. The lack of a private sector is more than an economic problem. One of the things I noticed when I moved here from Chicago is that most of my neighbors either work for the government or for a government-dependent business — and many of the people I meet are economically illiterate. So merit pay for teachers, for instance, is a tough sell because most voters and legislators have never worked in a competitive enterprise or received performance-based pay.

    There are a variety of things that Albuquerque and New Mexico can do to diversify the local economy and attract business, but it’s just as important to diversify our population by attracting new residents from outside the state.

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