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Three takeaways for business from Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address

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Reporter, Albuquerque Business First

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham addressed some of the biggest challenges and highlights of the past year and where she hopes the state is headed in her State of the State address Tuesday.

In prepared remarks, Lujan Grisham championed New Mexico’s resilience throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and said the state will work quickly to distribute vaccines across New Mexico. She also called for expansions in resources in behavioral health, health care coverage, the Opportunity Scholarship and more.

Lujan Grisham unveiled her $7.3 billion executive budget recommendation on Jan. 11, which is subject to approval from the Legislature. Two days later, she outlined her top priorities for the 55th Legislature, which began Jan. 19 and will run through March 20. 

Here are three key takeaways for the business community from Lujan Grisham’s third State of the State address.

Investing in industries like recreational cannabis can jumpstart the state’s economic recovery

The Covid-19 pandemic put tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of work from furloughs or layoffs across industries. To buck the trend of slow economic growth from the fallout of Covid-19, Lujan Grisham called on the state to support recreational cannabis. Passing recreational cannabis legislation could bring tens of thousands of new jobs into the state, Lujan Grisham said, and could generate about $500 million in sales by the end of FY 2022, Business First previously reported.

“I have no interest in another year of thousands of New Mexicans eager to get to work and make their future in this industry being told “no,” just because that’s easier than doing the hard work to get to ‘yes,'” Lujan Grisham said of the recreational cannabis industry’s potential. “When we emerge from this pandemic, we can have the same-old economy with the same-old boom-and-bust future, or we can roar back to life, breaking new ground and fearlessly investing in ourselves, in the limitless potential of New Mexicans. I know which future I prefer. And we can begin building it this year.”

New Mexico saw new companies wanting to invest in the state

While Netflix’s second $1 billion expansion on its Albuquerque campus garnered headlines, Lujan Grisham highlighted a few key expansions throughout 2020 in the state, like Las Cruces-based Big Tuna USA and Arizona-based Ascent Aviation expanding to Roswell. Those expansions will bring on, respectively, 30 and 360 new employees.

The two companies also received Local Economic Development Act funding: Big Tuna will receive a total of $275,000 and Ascent Aviation will take in $4 million from the state and another $3 million from Chavez County in LEDA dollars.

“…We will choose to keep investing in job-creation programs that work, programs like LEDA and JTIP that created thousands of jobs last year and have retrained thousands of workers, even amid the pandemic,” Lujan Grisham said, and “we will choose to have the courage to break ground in new industries, to expand opportunities for New Mexicans and reimagine what our state economy and workforce can be.”

Investing in energy continues to be a priority

Lujan Grisham signed the Energy Transition Act in March 2019. Under the legislation, the state is required to double renewable energy use in the state by 2025, achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2045.

Developers like Xcel Energy and Pattern Energy are in the midst of or recently completed sizable wind farm projects throughout the state. In December, Xcel completed the $900 million, 522-megawatt Sagamore Wind Project in Roosevelt County while Pattern broke ground on a 150-mile Western Spirit transmission line and Western Spirit wind farms in Guadalupe, Lincoln and Torrance counties. The Pattern wind farms total more than 1,000 megawatts of power.

“New Mexico will be home to the largest single wind complex in the nation, and I expect we will soon rank in the top 5 in the country for per-capita wind energy production,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’re driving down energy costs for you ​and ​reducing emissions.”

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