New Mexico Jobs Council seeks $950K for broadband efforts

11 Jan 2016

The New Mexico Jobs Council laid out its legislative recommendations at NAIOP-New Mexico’s 2016 Legislative Update luncheon Monday. NAIOP is the commercial real estate development association with a very active local chapter.

The Jobs Council, spearheaded by Democratic and Republican leaders and others, was started in 2013 to find new ways to identify and create new jobs. It announced at the Albuquerque Marriott event, in front of hundreds of real estate professionals and other businesspeople, that it's drafting a bill for a comprehensive study on the state’s broadband needs — about $950,000 in appropriations to fund the effort.

The NMJC says that bandwidth is the second highest contributor to " production gaps" in the state’s efforts to create 140,000 jobs over the next decade to get New Mexico back to pre-recession employment levels.

The top factor is a qualified workforce, and the third highest factor is the tax and regulatory climate.

But lack of adequate Internet access jeopardizes more than half, about 80,000, of the economic base jobs the state will need, the group said. In its assessment of broadband needs, the council determined that in order to be competitive with other states, where the telecom infrastructure has been adequately updated with fiberoptics, New Mexico businesses will require download speeds of 100 megabits per second (mbps) and upload speeds of 10 mbps. Personal speeds are 25 mbps for downloading and 7 mbps for uploads.

“We don’t have broadband across the state,” said NMJC co-chair and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, who is likely to introduce the bill in the upcoming session with Rep. Don L. Tripp, her council co-chair. “It’s very important that we get it here. When businesses are coming it’s very important they know they have broadband, and that they can do those communications.”

Mark Lautman, a consultant for the NMJC, highlighted the importance of recruiting solo workers, or freelancers, to the area. He said the lack of adequate broadband is a major impediment in recruiting important demographic. He cited a recent Forbes article showing that in 2010, 13 percent of all jobs in the U.S. were considered solo work.

“It’s 36 percent today and they’re expecting by 2020 it’ll be over 50 percent,” he said. “Broadband is so important for solo workers."

The council also announced it would ask for a $500,000 matching fund to establish a statewide solo work pilot program to provide service incentives for independent workers to set up shop in the state. Solo workers represent up to 11,920 potential jobs toward the overall 10-year goal of the NMJC.