New Mexico lost 4,400 jobs from April 2013 through April 2014. We're last in job growth.
So along comes Tesla Motors, dangling 6,000 jobs at its battery gigafactory like a canteen before a traveler lost in the desert. And New Mexico made the final cut!
We're in the final four, with Arizona, Texas and Nevada. The governor attributes this to the bipartisan tax package passed last year. That's not the whole story, but it's a factor. Should Tesla smile on us, whiners on the right and the left will have to eat their words.
California is also fighting to be considered by moving legislation that would streamline regulation and permitting and offer incentives.
Looking at California's hustle, two Democratic state senators last week blasted the governor for a perceived lack of action and for excluding the Legislature from discussions. The governor responded that a special session now would be a "political stunt."
It's an election year, so everything's debatable, but our elected leaders have danced to and fro about what we ought to be doing for Tesla.
In March, the governor mentioned a special session. The legislative response was cool. Democratic leaders wanted to see some commitment from Tesla before calling a special session. Other Dems warned about being overly generous with tax breaks that might jeopardize funding for education, showing they still don't understand that you can't tax what's not here.
Rep. Nate Gentry, an Albuquerque Republican, chimed in with the same message about commitment and also carped about overly generous incentives, but in his version only former Gov. Bill Richardson is guilty of errant generosity.
The governor says she's in high-level negotiations. Sounding like a teenager hoping for a date, she's also said she would keep her fingers crossed.
It's going to take a lot more than one tax measure and crossed fingers.
New Mexico is usually the runner-up and not the sweepstakes winner. We put together a package that looks good to us, but we don't work hard enough to perfect the winning deal, not that we'd know what that looks like. The state Economic Development Department has been a rerun of "Amateur Hour" for the last two administrations.
We've been replaying the Sematech deal since 1987. Sematech, a consortium of 13 major U.S. semiconductor companies backed by federal money, was looking for a headquarters location. New Mexico offered a nice package that included the labs, a site and a building.
Austin assembled a motivated team representing government, university and private industry, led by one high-energy guy, attorney Pike Powers and an economic developer shepherding the incentive package. The governor made calls. The House Speaker made calls. Local companies made calls. The team shared every scrap of information and attended to every detail, including sending birthday flowers to the daughter of a Sematech official whose daughter was a UT student. They arranged for the best hotel rooms for Sematech representatives, and even coached drivers on what to say.
In the end Austin didn't have the biggest incentive package, but Sematech officials felt that Austin really wanted them.
That's what we're competing with, and I doubt we've learned much since 1987.
Lately USA Today said the choice is down to two sites – San Antonio and Reno. The sources are site selection experts, who described San Antonio as a heavyweight and Reno as "a plucky upstart." One said, "A case can be made for both Arizona and New Mexico…and you have to give them credit."
It's all speculation, but in somebody's view, we're not even the plucky upstart.
Here's another lesson: In 2013 the left howled about the tax package that helped get us here. The right is still howling about the spaceport, which they label a Richardson boondoggle.
Guess who's a major spaceport customer? Space Exploration Technologies, another Elon Musk company. Like Tesla. If he likes our spaceport, maybe he'll remember New Mexico kindly.