Harold Morgan

© 2018 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES   11-19-18
Albuquerque downtown development is private, organic, flexible
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
An Albuquerque focus is one of New Mexico’s policy dangers. The Albuquerque-versus-the-rest-of-the-state mentality is a continuing black hole for ideas, some even useful. An Albuquerque commercial developer observed recently that, though a New Mexico native, he had never been to Hobbs until his company entered that market a couple of years ago.
Sometimes, though, it is useful to pay attention to Albuquerque for entertainment and productive lessons.
For decades Albuquerque has been on the downtown urban guru circuit. These consultants and professors with consulting sidelines roll in with grand ideas. In the 1980s it was Chris Leinberger whose wisdom spun into downtown live-work spaces, some, I suspect, still vacant. Later, Richard Florida pitched his “creative class” vision.
Over time Albuquerque powers that be have junketed to Florida, Denver and Portland, Oregon, to gawk at the latest fad.
In late October, Bruce Katz came to Albuquerque’s NAIOP commercial real estate group to tout “new localism and opportunity zones.” Katz has a book and a consultancy, New Localism Advisors (thenewlocalism.com). In a newsletter, Katz spoke well of the disastrous and destructive (my opinion) ART project, which he toured with former Albuquerque R.J. Berry, ART creator. At NAIOP, Berry introduced Katz, calling him “a friend.” (Consider the source and beware.)
In his talk to NAIOP, Katz cited Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Copenhagen, Denmark, exemplars of implementing his ideas. Note the metro population of these cities starts at two million and two have NFL franchises, elements not found in New Mexico.  Maybe Bill Richardson was right about seeking that NFL franchise.
Ten days past Katz, Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, a transportation and growth policy expert, came to the Americans for Prosperity office in Albuquerque. O’Toole’s consultancy is the Thoreau Institute.
O’Toole spent his extra day in New Mexico riding the Rail Runner to Santa Fe. His blog post provides the best description of the operation I’ve seen. Nice pictures, too. And numbers. All New Mexicans can see what their money is subsidizing. See: https://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=15317#more-15317.
While downtown Albuquerque boasts government-driven innovation incubator buildings and the Lobo Rainforest Building at Innovate ABQ, just to the north the Glorieta Station development is emerging.
The important idea here is that the development is not some urban guru’s latest big idea. And it’s all private, including the financing. While generally planned, the development will be organic, ad hoc and flexible with initiative coming from companies and developers responding to ideas and needs.
The main man is Ed Garcia of Albuquerque who leads the family-owned Garcia Automotive Group that in just over 50 years has grown to include 15 dealerships spread among Albuquerque, Santa Fe and El Paso with brands from Land Rover to Toyota.
Just recently Xpansiv Data Systems of San Francisco slipped its Albuquerque branch into the project. Xpansiv offers a commodity-intelligence platform (whatever that is). The Garcia neon sign collection is next door. Another tenant is The Roaster Coffee Shop. In between, whiskey barrels are arrayed around the office of the old Joe G. Maloof and Co.
Garcia doesn’t offer the sheets of promotional material typically accompanying real estate projects. Rather, he sketches the concept. From there the market—people and companies with needs—can find solutions within the development.
Garcia’s vision sees Glorieta Station as a mix of culture and commerce, where everything comes together.
There is some irony that Garcia has absorbed the former Maloof office, which held the Maloofs’ Coors beer distributorship. Garcia also owns First Plaza in downtown, which was home to Albuquerque’s First National Bank, once owned by the Maloofs.
Because Glorieta Station is different, and because it is private, it might just work. And that would benefit all New Mexico.

 
© 2018 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     11-5-18
State population growth dismal, but seven counties gain
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
In a previous column, I discussed those leaving New Mexico, namely the 25- to- 44-year olds who should provide the core of a productive society. This time the topic is the number staying. The numbers, for July 1, 2017, come from the Census Bureau. New numbers are due next month.
The state’s overall population situation remains dismal; we added only 28,891 people from the April 2010 census to 2017. That’s a 1.4 percent increase. Contrast that with Arizona, up by 624,253 (yes, from a larger base), a 9.8 percent increase.  Booming Colorado’s population grew 11.5 percent during the period. Those two neighbors can’t match New Mexico’s “accomplishment” of declining population in 2014 and 2015. It has been a lost decade.
Ten New Mexico counties gained population during the period. Only Sandoval and Santa Fe counties gained every year. Bernalillo and Los Alamos counties lost population during one year by amounts so tiny as to not really count. These four are the north central urban area. Doña Ana is also urban with the second largest county population in 2017 (215,579), with Las Cruces and part of the larger Júarez-El Paso combo.
Urban wins. The message isn’t good for the rest of the state.
Amid the gloom a few glimmers appear.
While just five counties showed positive domestic migration for the seven-year period, for the 2016-2017 year it was a dozen. (Domestic migration refers to people moving into or out of an area.) The seven with the migration turnaround are Catron, Lincoln, Los Alamos, Guadalupe, Torrance, Union, and Valencia.
Additionally, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties attracted substantially more migrants than the seven-year average. For the year, Bernalillo County lost 1,860 domestic migrants, equal to its seven year average.
For other counties, different things are happening.
The Chaves County population grew by 148 between 2012 and 2013 and has drifted down since. Chaves’ 2017 population is 64,866. It was 65,645 for the 2010 Census.
Lea and McKinley counties are close in the alphabet and in population with Lea showing 68,759 in 2017 and McKinley at 72,564. Both gained population during the 2010 to 2017 period. They peaked in 2015 and dropped the next two years.
The performance was quite different. Lea County added 4,032 people, or 6.2 percent, during the seven years. McKinley added 1,076 for a 1.5 percent increase. With one exception, the population factors were about the same. The exception was domestic migration. While Lea County lost 990 people to other parts of the U.S., 3,581 people left McKinley County. That’s three and a half times more than the Lea departures.
Incomes add to the story. For 2016 (the latest income figures available) the per capita income in Lea County was $33,371 (22nd in the state) and $25,688 in McKinley (33rd in the state).
To state the obvious, the economies of the two counties are quite different and people respond accordingly, seeking betterment, just as people respond to the economies of Arizona, Colorado and Texas being quite different from New Mexico.
Our vast spaces show in the population numbers. We have seven counties with fewer than 5,000 people—Catron, De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Hidalgo, Mora, and Union. Five counties are in the northeast with two in the southwest. Their total 2017 population was 23,580. Together they lost 7.8 percent of their population in seven years.
The group spreads across 15.1 million acres, 19 percent of the state’s 77.9 million acres. The spread is thin; the seven-county population is 1.2 percent of the state’s 2.09 million.
All in all, we go back to the economic truism: incentives matter, incentives such as higher income and decent education for the kids..


© 2018 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     10-22-18
The young, educated and energetic leaving for Colorado, Texas, Arizona
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
People move from New Mexico in greater numbers than people move here. We have known this for years.
Speculation about the leavers has long centered on young families. The speculation makes sense. People trying to build a middle class life, something that includes educating the children, are poorly served by economies that are stagnant to declining.
Now we can say that the speculation is true, mostly, thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which serves northern New Mexico. The information comes in the KC Fed’s Rocky Mountain Economist newsletter, which discusses migration trends in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Natural population growth—births minus deaths—is the part of population change responding to longer term trends. Migration—in and out of an area—shows shorter term ups and downs. A family quits a job, calls U-Haul and is gone.
People chose New Mexico in the early 1990s, the Fed said, with about 22,000 net migrants in the peak year, 1994. The flow reversed as the 2001 recession approached and reversed again throughout most of the 2000s.
“That flow has been negative (meaning more people leaving than coming) since 2012 as New Mexico’s economic recovery from the 2007 recession lagged national gains (no kidding), leading many individuals to seek employment opportunities in other states.”
Between 2010 and 2017, six (just six!) New Mexico counties count more people coming than leaving.
The Farmington metro area (San Juan County) leads all counties in the three states in the leaver category with about 9,600 departures.
Colorado is the most popular destination for people moving from New Mexico, followed by Texas and Arizona. These states are handy, prosperous and even booming. Oregon and North Carolina are the fourth and fifth place destinations.
Well, who are these guys?
The short answer: “In New Mexico, individuals age 25 to 44 and who earned between $50,000 and $100,000 accounted for a large share of outflows,” the Fed said. These are the people providing the core of our society. They are building businesses and careers, having children, buying houses and paying taxes.
New Mexico’s vaunted and clichéd claim of having more PhD degree holders per capita may still be true; I haven’t heard it recently. The per capita situation may have to do with our relatively small population of 2.1 million, i.e., fewer capitas, and institutions such as national laboratories that require PhDs. The hunch comes because people with some college or a degree, even, left the state while people who failed to finish high school came to the state. The effect lowers the state’s overall education level. The Fed notes that New Mexico has a “relatively large share of those with less than a high school degree.” 
Of people who moved to New Mexico before 2010, just over 20 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree and about 20 percent lacked the high school diploma.
By scary contrast nearly all of the people moving to Colorado between 2010 and 2016 had at least finished high school and about half had that college degree or more. This is not “Colorado envy.” Just facts. It seems a virtuous circle. The Colorado jobs attract people with energy and education, especially from California, who grow in the jobs and create new companies which hire people with energy and education and on and on. New Mexico goes the other way, a vicious circle.
Interest in change simmers. Dale Armstrong’s Viante New Mexico (viantenm.org) wants to educate people. The recently announced New Mexicans for Economic Prosperity has no website, a dozen unidentified members, a single staffer recently employed in the governor’s office, and, from this columnist’s perspective, no credibility.


© 2018 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES   10-8-18
Three-mile-long trains may (someday) enhance New Mexico train world
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Here’s a challenge. Visualize three miles of anything as one single thing. It’s hard. Runners, for example, commonly cover more than three miles but are conscious only of the much smaller area that is visible. The question arises because of a recent report that railroads are thinking about running trains three miles long.
What would a three-mile-long train be, besides really, really long?
On Interstate 25 there is a rest stop north of Lemitar. North of the rest stop, a sign says, “Rest Stop Three Miles.”
This is the Walking Sands rest area at mile marker 167, which stands out among the state’s rest areas for its distinctive wood structures. A sand dune area used to be located immediately west of the area, but the dunes seem to have walked away.
Imagine a single train covering the distance from Walking Sands back to the sign. Such a train might have as many as 200 cars, many carrying two shipping containers. And locomotives at both ends. It might need five minutes to pass a given point.
Other than Rail Runner, which sports colorful paint and is visible because it takes passengers through Albuquerque and Santa Fe, railroads get little attention in the state. Our tale here omits Amtrak, which has separate issues. Do remember, though, that about 4,400 Boy Scouts ride Amtrak to Raton for their time at the Philmont Scout Ranch. Out of sight, out of mind.
Two of what are called Class I railroads cross the state: the Union Pacific Corporation (UP.com) and the BNSF Railway Company (BNSF.com). BNSF is North America’s largest freight rail network. UP is second.
Company fact sheets indicate the New Mexico impact.
UP operates 618 miles of track. One segment runs along Interstate 10 from Arizona to El Paso. The other angles from El Paso to Santa Rosa, Tucumcari and the Texas Panhandle. UP’s 485 New Mexico employees were paid $46.6 million in 2017.
The UP’s New Mexico jewel is the 2,200-acre intermodal ramp and refueling station a few miles from Santa Teresa. The $470 million facility opened in 2014. It has, UP says, become a catalyst for additional economic development, including warehouses, trucking and logistical distribution centers. The facility is 11.5 miles long (visualize that!), a mile wide, with 100 miles of rail sitting on 136,000 ties and 218,000 tons of concrete used in construction.
At this time, UP has no plans for three-mile-long trains, Jeff DeGraff, UP director of corporate relations and media, said in an email.
BNSF paid its 1,389 New Mexico employees $119.7 million in 2017. The company owns 1,125 route miles of track and has trackage rights for another 515 miles. That track runs along I-40 in the western third of the state and then drops south to go through Belen and along U.S. 60 to Clovis.  BNSF also runs along I-25 from El Paso to Raton, skipping Santa Fe for a digression through Lamy.
BNSF has rail yards in Albuquerque, Belen, Gallup and Clovis.
Interstate 40 in the Grants-Gallup area offers continuous wonderful trains viewing. The road is above the track. The route is busy with 92 trains per day, BNSF said, that average 8,000 feet long. BNSF has tested longer trains on the route.
Train viewing will gain with the (planned) 2019 reopening of the 40-room La Castañeda hotel, just off the tracks in Las Vegas. The 1,400-acre Central New Mexico Rail Park, now under construction in Los Lunas, is another addition to our rail world anticipated for 2019.
Trains are glorious. They also move much stuff—coal, grain, lumber, cars, asphalt and steel—and provide New Mexicans jobs and a way of life.