NEW LEADER HAS PLAN TO COMBAT LOSS OF PEOPLE AND FUNDS IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO
By Blake Driver
Published: Albuquerque Business First
December 29, 2015
Northern New Mexico’s Regional Development Corp. is getting innovative in the face of shrinking federal funds for economic development in rural areas in 2016. No one knows the situation better than its new executive director, Liddie Martinez, who assumes her role on Jan. 4.
“It would be wonderful to have abundant funding to provide stellar service to our entire region, but it is just not going to happen in 2016,” she said. “This means we must be strategic with our resources and innovative in our strategies.”
The RDC is a nonprofit organization working to further economic growth in northern New Mexico. Martinez is stepping in the role formerly held by Kathy Keith, who was in the position for four years.
Martinez said the past year presented similar challenges to the RDC, which her predecessor tackled with solid networks and collaboration.
“Much of the funding for the RDC comes from the [U.S.] Department of Energy and is impacted by federal budgets,” Martinez said. “I have worked collaboratively with Kathy for many years now, and she has an extensive network across both the state of New Mexico and federal agencies in Washington, D.C.”
Martinez said she plans to capitalize on the collaborative structure.
“I also believe that success in not directly attributed to dollars,” she said. “We have proven that collaboration, mentoring and innovation are often the biggest factors of success.”
Another challenge is that New Mexico’s population has continued to decline at a rate of .02 percent over the last census year.
“Many attribute that decline to our very slow job growth,” Martinez said. “In northern New Mexico, we have seen what is often called ‘the exodus’ after graduation. The sad truth is that many of our college graduates, wherever they are from, cannot find work and the trend of moving back home with their parents is real all across the nation.”
Martinez said e-commerce could provide one of the sparks she’s looking for.
“As we begin to redefine the marketplace to include the ‘market space,’” she said, referring to online retail, “I believe that the ability to once again choose where we live will benefit New Mexico in the long run, and it is not too far in the future.”
Martinez said she understands that economic stress and population decline hit rural areas hard, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t any diamonds in the rough out there.
“The potential for rural job creation in farming, creative arts, building and expanding infrastructure [and] caring for our natural resources is huge,” she said. “By creating value chains to maximize success, sustainable rural economic development is the key to improving the well-being of our rural citizens and healthy rural regions benefit all New Mexicans.”
Blake Driver covers economic development and innovation. Reach him at (505) 348-8308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.