A conversation with.Fred Mondragón, Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Economic Development Department
"We are beginning to develop a core business in alternative energy generation, such as solar and wind farms, biodiesel facilities, and ethanol. Developments are being seen statewide, with biofuels and ethanol in the eastern plains, wind farms in the northeast and central [regions]."
A. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that New Mexico's economy, adjusted for inflation, grew at a 6.2 percent rate last year - the fifth-fastest in the nation and nearly double the national average of 3.4 percent.
Q. What are New Mexico's growing industries?
A. Film and media represents one of our fastest-growing industries. Three or four years ago, that industry practically did not exist in this state. Since Governor Bill Richardson established the film commission, we have so much film activity right now that all five of our film crews are occupied. Since the governor took office, over 70 feature films and television series have shot here, adding over $1.2 billion dollars to New Mexico's economy. Several incentives encourage this sector's growth. New Mexico provides a 25 percent tax rebate on all in-state spending by a film or television production, and the Film Investment Loan Program offers with participation in lieu of interest, up to $15 million per project, which can represent 100 percent of the budget, for qualifying feature films or television projects. Albuquerque Studios located at Mesa Del Sol, a 12,500-acre mixed-use development Bernalillo County, is a $75 million investment that has created 500,000 square feet of film studios.
Q. What other niches are you trying to nurture?
A. The governor is strong on alternative energy generation. The Energy Innovation Fund (EIF) was created during the 2007 Legislative session with a $2 million appropriation to accelerate the development of innovation to enable faster commercial adaptation of clean energy technologies. Projects must relate to achieving New Mexico's goals in clean energy, be innovative, have the potential for a significant impact on our state, and include partnerships between private and public sectors, with at least one of the principals in the project being a New Mexico entity.
Energy research at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratories has resulted in some of our most advanced principles and technology transfer. Advent Solar's commercial technology is a direct result of research done at Sandia National Laboratories. The company's photovoltaic research, development, and manufacturing plant located at Mesa Del Sol represents one of the state's largest venture capital deals. Its pilot plant was located at the University of New Mexico Science and Technology Park in Southeast Albuquerque. At the new facility, Advent Solar is expected to hire up to 1,000 employees in the next few years as it ramps up and expands production.
We are beginning to develop a core business in alternative energy generation, such as solar and wind farms, biodiesel facilities, and ethanol. Developments are being seen statewide, with biofuels and ethanol in the eastern plains, wind farms in the northeast and central [regions]. Solar is starting to gain momentum. Albuquerque is working with Indian pueblos and small communities to encourage them to adopt alternative energy.
New Mexico is creating new opportunities for growing industries such as aerospace and manufacturing of light aircraft. Eclipse Aviation, which manufactures very light jets, has 1,000 employees and projects 2,500 employees and 1,000 planes per year. We are negotiating with other aircraft manufacturers to try and encourage this cluster.
Q. What about exports?
A. Forty percent of our overseas exports are in microelectronics. We have the largest Intel fab in the world with 4,700 employees in Rio Rancho. We did not have an international trade group until last year, and now we have a very active international trade division. We are going to Japan and China in September to meet with their scientific staff.