What if I told you that a business was planning to make close to a billion dollar investment in New Mexico? What if I told you that this company is a leader of a potential revolution in automobile fueling and technology and that they could help our state make the transition to cleaner, more affordable fuel for automobiles?
No, I'm not talking about Tesla which has, aside from the recent exploits of local basketball teams, been the talk of the state. I'm talking about the proposed purchase of New Mexico Gas Co. from its current owner, New York City-based Continental Energy, by Tampa-based TECO Energy.
Bringing Tesla to New Mexico could be a home run for New Mexico's economy, but having a natural gas company that is owned by a utility company with a 115-year track record of serving its customers – as opposed to a hedge fund – could be at least a double.
For those who are concerned about rates and prices, TECO has proposed that New Mexico Gas customer rates will be frozen until at least July 2017. New Mexico Gas will retain its name, and its headquarters will remain in Albuquerque. While New Mexico's economy has struggled mightily in recent years, TECO's management is "bullish" on New Mexico. The company's CEO John Ramil recently was quoted as saying, "The Company is looking at New Mexico to be a growing state, and New Mexico Gas Co. to continue its growth.
Given the onslaught of negative economic news from our state in recent years, it is wonderful to have a business that sees our state's growth potential looking to come here and invest.
A positive attitude is an important factor, but the real potential for New Mexico lies in TECO's willingness to replicate its successful Florida model of investing in filling stations for vehicles that use clean natural gas produced right here in New Mexico. Due to broader market forces and newly-discovered supplies, natural gas prices remain at historically-low levels, spurring calls for increased investments in fueling stations.
In fact, whether the fuel in question is gasoline, electricity, or natural gas, a large national network of filling stations is an absolute necessity in order for alternative fuels to become widespread.
TECO has a proven track record and stated interest in investing in infrastructure and the communities it serves. New Mexico Gas which is currently owned by a hedge fund with a business model that involves purchasing and "flipping" under-valued assets is unlikely to make such investments.
One final point on the importance of the New Mexico Gas sale is the need for government bodies to respect free markets and a business' desire to sell a company that does business in New Mexico to another business. It is one thing for regulatory bodies to stand in the way of such transactions for tangible, specific reasons. It is another thing to stand in front of these business transactions out of abstract fears.
My organization has worked assiduously to research and explain how New Mexico can improve its economy. While there are myriad issues to overcome before our state becomes truly business-friendly, there is no easier way to become a pariah among investors and businesses than to be seen as a place where once you have invested resources, you are unable to sell those investments.
Venezuela and Argentina are just two nations whose economies have suffered greatly from such capricious state actions. New Mexico should not fall into that trap.