Last updated on August 16th, 2012 at 12:08 pm[gn_note color=”#ff3333″] The 2011 New Mexico Profile originally ran in the January 2011 edition of The Shelby Report of the Southwest. Due to reader requests we will be posting our Profiles from each edition of The Shelby Report. The profile will be published on theshelbyreport.com one month after it has run in print.[/gn_note]
by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor
New Mexico elected its first female governor on Nov. 2, 2010. Susana Martinez, who has served as district attorney for Doña Ana County (Las Cruces) since 1996, also will be the first Hispanic female governor in the United States when she is sworn in Jan. 1 in Santa Fe.
Martinez, a Republican, campaigned on cutting wasteful spending, lowering taxes and ending “pay-to-play” practices and other corruption in government.
The New Mexico House of Representatives saw a significant shift in the balance of power on Election Day.
In the 70-member House of Representatives, Republicans gained eight seats, defeating incumbent Democrats for each one.
The balance of power in the senate will now be 37 Democrats to 33 Republicans, marking the most Republican-held seats in the state since 1929.
(There were no contests for the Senate in 2010. It is led by Democrats 27-15.)
“It really didn’t matter who won or lost,” stated Ruben Baca, lobbyist for the New Mexico Grocers Association in a December newsletter. “The one thing that came out of this election was a record amount of mudslinging on both sides—and the results of an angry American voter should give all politicians a message that we are for smaller government, less spending, and less government intrusion in our private lives.”
All elected officials in the state will be staring down a $180 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year and a $300 million hole in 2012.
“The past two years we have reduced spending by $500 million, so it can be done,” Baca said. “But this year’s cuts, I think, will have to come from creative thinking.”
Outlook for New Mexico bright
According to Manpower’s latest Employment Outlook survey, New Mexico employers will add workers in the first quarter of 2011.
For the months January-March, 16 percent of employers plan to add employees, and 69 percent will maintain current staff levels. Ten percent plan to reduce staff and 5 percent were not certain.
The survey yields a Net Employment Outlook of 6 percent, which is derived by taking the percentage of employers anticipating new hires and subtracting the percentage expecting a decrease.
“Employers are similarly optimistic about hiring plans for the first three months of 2011 compared to Quarter 4 2010 when the Net Employment Outlook was 8 percent,” said Manpower spokesperson Susan Fontana in a written statement. “Employers expect a faster hiring pace compared with one year ago, when the Net Employment Outlook was zero percent.”
The state has seen its jobless rate double over the past two years. The October 2010 unemployment rate in New Mexico was 8.4 percent, up from 8.2 percent in September. Unemployment hit its recent peak in March of this year at 8.8 percent.
It hovered below 4 percent from September 2006 (3.9 percent) through May 2008, when it reached 4.1 percent, less than half the current jobless rate.
The U.S. Federal Reserve, in its latest “Beige Book” survey of the region including northern New Mexico and six neighboring states, says the region has “strengthened … despite headwinds from the residential and commercial construction sectors.”
The 10th District was among five of the nation’s 12 that saw a “somewhat stronger pace of economic activity” than other regions. The region’s residential and commercial construction “remained weak, although commercial real estate sales and vacancy rates were expected to improve in coming months,” the report stated.
The “Beige Book” also said that wholesale and retail prices had held steady in the 10th District during the six-week period including October and early November.
Center Market sees uptick in business
Ray Sandoval has operated the Center Market he and his wife own in Española since 1995. He still works seven days a week at the store and loves it.
He told The Shelby Report that since 1995, his business has improved five-fold—not bad at all considering a Walmart Supercenter moved in about a mile away back in 1999.
“It’s done very well,” Sandoval said. “Last year it slowed down because of the economy. The growth is little to none, but it’s still a very good business.”
He does see things picking up a bit as people spend less money in restaurants and more in his store, but he is concerned about the cost of goods going up.
“We try to stay as long as we can with the same kind of pricing to keep the clientele happy and coming back,” he said.
He is willing to shave a little off the margin if need be.
But what really worries him?
“What scares me is—I hope they never close the (Los Alamos) labs. All our locals work up there,” he said. “That’s what drives the economy here.”
Los Alamos National Laboratory bought nearly $1 billion in goods and services in the last fiscal year, and $484 million of it was spent at New Mexico businesses. Three-quarters of the $484 million was in the northern part of the state, and Espanola, where Center Market is located, is right in the heart of the area, just north of Santa Fe.
On the other side of the coin, Sandoval said casinos in the area have hurt business.
Center Market has focused attention on organics, private label and its bakery to keep its shoppers happy.
“We give a lot of focus to organic items,” which he said are placed in different departments throughout the 17,500-s.f. store. “We have fresh organic items, canned and packaged and frozen organic items. We also give a lot of attention to our private label because people are going for pricing right now.”
Center Market is supplied by Affiliated Foods Inc. headquartered in Amarillo, Texas, and sells its Shurfine branded products.
Center Market also just updated its bakery, Sandoval said.
“We bought new equipment. Our fresh bread smells so good early in the mornings … makes you hungry. They do a very good job. We’re known for our cakes. They are very, very good at what they do.”