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Electronics will be the industry that will create New Mexico’s economic growth, according to an economic develop expert.

“Electronics is the biggest anchor to our economy,” said Michael Skaggs, president of Next Generation Economy, at the third annual Economic Development Conference held at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus on Wednesday.

“We have 37 times more electronic business and research and development than other areas in the country,” he said to members of the three Valencia County chambers of commerce during the luncheon address.

“New Mexico is in the early stages of being a competitive business state,” he said.

Skaggs discussed which cluster groups of businesses are emerging as the state’s economics grow. Clusters are groups of businesses concentrated in a particular geographic area that are interrelated through alliances, competition, or the buyer-suppler ‘food chain’ and that draw on a common talent, technology and support base.

“In the past, the economy was dependent on the government jobs, retail and local services,” he said. “Today, high-tech is emerging, along with government, retail and local services.”

Next Generation Economy focuses its efforts on the clusters which hold the most potential to export their goods and services outside the region and import new dollars into the region.

Those clusters include aerospace and electronic systems, biotechnology and biomedical, information technology and software, microsystems, optic and photonics, tourism and artisan manufacturing.

“There are two groups of creative people guiding this state. The electronic engineers and scientists and the artists. The business world must surround them with the frame work which will help our economy,” he said.

“The University of New Mexico and Sandia Labs are doing a lot of research and development in these areas, which will be used in our future. The business world and research and development people are beginning to come together to start businesses.”

In the world of microsystems, Skaggs said, the Southwest is poised to embrace the latest hot technology. “Microsystems could pour billions of dollars into local economies, according to a recent report conducted by the Milken Institute and reported by Ross DuVol in the New Mexico Business Weekly in August, 2000,” he said.

But to make it happen, New Mexico must build a foundation of educational institutitions to provide training.

“One of NextGen’s goals is to effectively link the human resource of the community with the work force needs of the clusters, which will fuel cluster growth.

“To do this, NextGen is developing a web site called AJA! which will connect people looking for jobs with those looking for people and then give them the information where the educational training is available.

“A young person can learn about the optic technology cluster and see what type of jobs are available. Then they can determine what type of training they will need and where it is offered,” he said.

Another way Next Generation Economy is encouraging economic development for the Valencia, Bernalillo and Sandoval counties is by offering a design competition, called Style NM.

“It will focus attention on the design quality of New Mexico artisans at all levels while providing them with tools to develop their business,” he said.

“The competition deadline is July 8, when artisans will enter their designs in clothing, art and jewelry for $25. Nationally recognized experts in design and fashion will judge the entries. The emerging artisans will be presented on July 20.”

Once the best designs are selected, NextGen will link the artisans with industry to manufacture the items.

He closed his presentation by telling the audience, “Don’t think you can’t impact your economic development as an individual. You can be a mentor for an entrepreneur in your community. They need successful business persons to be mentors, to help them avoid the pitfalls of starting a business.”

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Jane Moorman