- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Susana Martinez announced a $1.2 million incentive package on Monday attached to more than 200 new private-sector sales jobs in New Mexico, as the state wrestles with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Executives with El Segundo, California-based PCM, a direct marketing technology company, said the company plans to add 244 sales positions under the agreement at a building in Rio Rancho. The city is confronting uncertainties about the future of a decades-old Intel manufacturing plant.

The Martinez administration has made a string of private-sector employment announcements over the past month linked to more than 1,000 anticipated new jobs, at businesses ranging from a brewery in Las Cruces to a Santa Fe computer technology firm.

Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela visited with PCM executives during a three-day trip to California in March. They announced Monday that state will provide $700,000 from a closing fund for investments in infrastructure improvements to accommodate PCM’s expansion. The state also plans to provide $569,000 toward job training for the local PCM employees.

“It’s an investment in New Mexico employees to get them back to work,” Barela said. The state has provisions that allow it to recover incentives for job training if commitments are not met by PCM after one year, and up to three years later for state infrastructure incentives that are channeled through a local government entity, he said.

Annual salaries for the new sales positions would range between $45,000 a year to $65,000, PCM said in a news release.

PCM provides computer equipment, software and services to an array of institutional customers. The publicly traded company employs about 3,600 people in the United States, Canada and the Philippines.

Albuquerque-based economist Jeffrey Mitchell said the best employment opportunities the state can strive for are locally created jobs that pay well and do not depend heavily on incentives.

“To the extent that jobs are hugely dependent on government incentives, they are more likely to leave when those incentives are gone,” said Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico.

New Mexico’s unemployment rate has declined in recent months to 6.2 percent as of April, but it remains higher than all but four states. At the same time, the state government is reining in spending this year and drawing down reserves in response reduced revenue forecasts linked to low energy prices.

Democratic state lawmakers are promising to make the state’s economy and unemployment rate an issue in fall election campaigns, as they attempt to win back control of the House of Representatives and hold on to a majority in the Senate. The entire legislature is up for re-election in November.

Martinez on Monday highlighted tax cuts under her administration designed to spur economic competitiveness.

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