Retrovision: Regional Economic Development

This article originally appeared on 13 August 2015.

The Borderplex Alliance, an entity dedicated to regional economic development, commissioned a study by Angelou Economics to develop a plan for the region, and guess what? Angelou Economics said we needed regional economic development.

The region’s economic development in the next five years hinges on improving the area’s overall quality and spurring innovation and entrepreneurship, according to a strategic plan released today by the Borderplex Alliance.

The 155-page report said those things must be done as “one well-oiled, united economic region” to succeed.

Emphasis added.

The corollary is that if we can’t do things as “one well-oiled, united economic region,” the plan won’t work.

According to the El Paso Inc., here’s what Jerry Pacheco, vice president and founder of the Border Industrial Association in Santa Teresa, said when the plan was first announced:

“I just wish people would ask us what is already in the works before they launch these efforts to create plans, because it has the propensity to create more confusion.”

And here’s what Mr. Pacheco said when the plan was released, according to the El Paso Times:

“We told them we don’t want anything to do with their study,” Pacheco said.

. . .

Pacheco, who doesn’t buy into the Borderplex Alliance’s self-appointed role as regional leader of economic development, said its proposed plan conflicts with a number of others being compiled in New Mexico, including a huge planning project in Doña Ana County.

I’m sure those guys at the Borderplex Alliance are nice, and they have the best intentions, but El Paso is hemorrhaging, and I’m not sure we can wait for nice, well-meaning guys to pursue a tack that’s doomed to fail.

I’ve got an idea. How about we just throw out any preconceptions we might have about regional economic development and just do what will work?

Regional economic development might work for a region that’s homogenous, that has similar problems and similar assets, but El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez are completely different cities.

Regional economic development might work if there were natural synergies, like if El Paso had a pine forest and Las Cruces had a toothpick factory. But we don’t.

If there were any natural synergies, Angelou Economics would have found them. But there aren’t. They didn’t.

Hell, Southern New Mexico doesn’t even want our meddling management. They’ve got their own managers, and their own plans.

If El Paso is going to pull out of our economic nosedive, we better find solutions for our own problems, and stop worrying about Juarez and Southern New Mexico.

Instead of trying to building a bonfire that might never light, let’s just build three little campfires. Otherwise we’ll freeze to death in the dark.

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