NM gets low marks for business innovation
FARMINGTON — A new report from Consumer Technology Association scores New Mexico toward the bottom of states in the U.S. on 10 criteria like business innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
Produced by the same the Arlington, Va.-based organization that puts on the splashy annual electronics show in Las Vegas each January, CTA's 2016 Innovation Scorecard ranked New Mexico as a "modest innovator" — the lowest of four innovation tiers. New Mexico was lumped along with five other states: Hawaii, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.
New Mexico scored failing grades in availability of right-to-work laws and in welcoming new business models like app-based ride-share or peer-to-peer start-ups.
But it wasn't all bad news.
"New Mexico did show improvements in two other areas in the 2016 Scorecard," the report states. "Though its absolute numbers are still low, New Mexico made large gains in the category of Attracts Investment by drawing more than 500 percent more venture capital investment dollars, per capita. And with average New Mexico Internet speeds over 1,000 (kilobits per second) faster since our last Scorecard, the state is heading in the right direction."
CTA spokeswoman Izzy Santa said states in the bottom tier often were held back either by burdensome regulations or the lack of them. She cited the state Public Regulation Commission driving the ride-sharing company Lyft out of the state last year as an example. And a decision by the state Supreme Court over allowing Uber to operate in New Mexico is still up in the air.
While New Mexico earned a C-minus for entrepreneurial activity based on the number of net jobs created, 39 percent of states in the U.S. also fell into this category.
Still, one Farmington entrepreneur is hoping to add his business to the state's list of emerging small-business success stories.
In December, Greg Brown opened a Farmington storefront for his previously mobile-only business Safety LLC, just across the Bloomfield Highway from Skate Away USA.
Since 2006, Brown has been a paramedic, making emergency calls during the night shift for San Juan Regional Medical Center. Despite running his own business, he still manages to work nights for the hospital driving an ambulance seven shifts a month.
The idea for his business venture was triggered four years ago, he said, after he witnessed too many safety training courses in the area that were more about profit than helping save people's lives.
"This is where my love is, because if I'm able to keep one person safe, I've done my job, and all of this was worth it," Brown said. "This is a good start, and with any good start, it takes a while to build."
Brown said his new storefront can train area businesses on everything from hydrogen sulfide to blood-born pathogens, as well as offer basic CPR or first-aid training sessions.
Brown and four other instructors also take the education opportunities on the road. He recently led a safety training for about 250 miners at San Juan Mine and 100 oilfield workers in Bloomfield, he said.
Four Corners Economic Development CEO Ray Hagerman said Brown's business is another sign of the healthy and growing state of new business creation in Sam Juan County and statewide.
Hagerman said CTA's "scorecard," for what it's worth, sounds about right.
"There's always somebody out there wiling to do a scorecard on something," Hagerman said. "It's alright. I take it for what it's worth. I agree that New Mexico needs to be a lot more business-friendly. We're making progress as a state. We are becoming more tax-friendly. I do think that New Mexico screwed up by not allowing Uber. The state has rejected Lyft, and it's working on rejecting Uber. The state did show improvement in investment, and that's a good thing."
Despite the economic downturn locally, Brown said he is confident in his business because of support from his family and the quality of services he provides.
"A wise man once told me, to be a good business owner, you need to do the opposite of what the industry's doing. If the industry's on the down-slope, you go on the up-slope, and by doing that, when it turns around — and it's going to turn around eventually — you're going to be known," he said. "Diversity is the key. Meet the needs of my customers and I'm going to be a success."
James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.
What: Safety LLC
Where: 2080 Afton Place, Suite B in Farmington
More information: Call 505-860-5727 or go to safetynm.com.