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The pandemic has changed everything. The world as we knew it will never be the same. And in my opinion, the future will bring great opportunity for New Mexico to thrive in the “Next Normal”. The time to act is now. If we don’t, the all too familiar story will prevail, and New Mexicans will once again be asking the question, “Why is New Mexico last on the good lists and first on the bad lists?”

I’ve often referred to New Mexico as the hole in the donut state as compared to our neighboring states of Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. These four states all have prospered and grown with higher per capita incomes, lower unemployment rates and poverty rates, while New Mexico has struggled and literally been the “hole in the donut”.

But the pandemic has shifted the way “global” business will be done, now and forever. Massive supply chain interruptions during the pandemic has exposed the US dependence on “foreign countries” that supplied critical infrastructure, like pharmaceuticals, medical protective equipment and microelectronics. New Mexico has the opportunity in the “Next Normal” to capitalize on a new global business model that relies on distributed supply chains, nearshoring to Mexico and reshoring of critical infrastructure manufacturing back to the US.

A major transformation that has accelerated during the pandemic is e-commerce. Pre-pandemic e-commerce made up about 15% of all sales. Post-pandemic, e-commerce is the biggest game changer to the “way we live” since the introduction of the Internet. Projected online sales could hit $1.5 trillion by 2025. That means one of the largest industries for the foreseeable future will be e-fulfillment.

In Albuquerque, we already are seeing that demand with the huge Amazon fulfillment center and the Ben E. Keith distribution centers already setting up shop. Albuquerque and the region have space, affordable rents, and a ready workforce. Our fantastic weather which reduces natural disaster risks, coupled with our state’s “lowest cost of renewable energy” are strengths that will resonate with companies looking to relocate and establish operations in state’s like New Mexico during the Next Normal. Now is our time to seize this market opportunity.

The pandemic has also further accelerated the advancement of Industry 4.0, robotics, additive/ advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence and with three national labs (Sandia, Los Alamos and Air Force Research), the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech and CNM, our state has cutting edge research and talent that could help reset and diversify our state’s economy in the future.

Albuquerque Economic Development (AED), under the leadership of our new CEO Danielle Casey, has engaged in a strategic planning exercise. It’s amazing what happens when silos are dismantled, and people and organizations work collaboratively instead of competitively.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department is also engaged in a strategic planning process, and the work AED is doing is a critical piece of their overall planning. AED’s member organizations and partners make up half of New Mexico’s industries. Together, we will develop actionable plans that will make a marked difference for future generations. It is important work. Both organizations are committed to changing our state’s trajectory and in the process achieving positive quality of life and economic outcomes for ALL New Mexicans.

If ever there was a time, this one is ours.