(part 3 of 5)
Willard, Economic Development, and the Next Generation Economy
In the New Mexico Business Journal article cited above promoting Willard for Most Influential, they stated that he works “tirelessly in the area of economic development, to provide jobs” (1).
What does this mean, “provide jobs?” The linguist Noam Chomsky once deciphered what the business press and the elites they serve really mean. He stated before that when business leaders talk about jobs they really mean profits. So when the business press and the corporate elites they serve justify directing public money for means of private gain, they justify it in terms of “jobs,” or at least how many more they will make. But corporate power does not exist to do good for its own sake, it is to continue gaining capital. Nowadays more and more the gain is private and the risk is taken up by public resources. Chomsky also has written extensively about how state and corporate power collaborate, where the latter use state power for private gain. Willard exemplifies this.
Along with his philanthropic and community service activities, Willard is also heavily involved in planning for economic development for the state of New Mexico. The organization that laid out its plans for the further corporate and military looting of the economy of New Mexico is called the Next Generation Economy. If the power elite have an organized presence it would be in an organization like Next Gen. It is worth looking into how this organization led and promoted in the beginning by Willard helped direct economic policy in New Mexico during a period starting in the late 90’s. This was a time when neoliberal capitalist ideology was spreading, especially in public service areas like education. His organizational ties give light to his overall business ideology.
Even very early Larry Willard had become influential in terms of leadership in economic development. Back in 1997 Willard wrote a column for NMBJ at a time when he was chairman of Albuquerque Economic Development Inc. Founded in 1960, Willard stated what the mission was of this city-funded effort to get new jobs : “focus on the recruitment of quality companies for the long term growth and stability of our economy.” (2) He bemoaned the heavy reliance of New Mexico on government for employment. Here Willard gave an important point, even if he had the wrong solution. Where in 1997 government provided 16.2 percent of jobs nationally, in New Mexico it was 22.9 percent and Albuquerque was 18.3 percent, both higher than the national average. Willard stated his goal was “to create a business environment conducive for investment.” What he does not mention is that his economic development goals rely on state subsidies for private business in different ways. One of the policies he promoted was financing IRB’s as a way to attract investment, despite their mixed results in attracting long-term investment, as I have wrote about before here. A few years later Willard would continue this neoliberal doctrine presented as economic development in his next endeavor, the Next Generation Economic Initiative.
The Next Generation Economic Initiative, later to become the Next Generation Economy Inc., was the main economic development promoter in New Mexico for a certain time. It was founded between 1999 and 2000 by top business and government leaders in New Mexico to turn Albuquerque into a “technological gold mine.” (3) It was set up with a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy given to the city of Albuquerque, originally to assist the Central New Mexico region with potential job losses due to downsizing at Sandia National Labs.(4) Larry Willard became its co-chair in 2000, along with then-Mayor Jim Baca. Its board represented a who’s who of New Mexico’s economic elite, people like Sherman McCorkle, Paul Shirley, David Skaggs, and Dave Durgin of Quatro. One can only guess how their economic planning would benefit people like them.
In October 2002 Next Gen received another grant from the DOE, this time for $682,000.
The mission of NextGen promoted from its website was “creating business opportunities and high-paying jobs for the people of New Mexico through economic clusters.” We’ll come back to that last term in a minute. The first act of NextGen in 2000 was the hiring of ICF Consulting, a company (5)that did previous economic development consulting work for cities like Austin Tx and Charlotte NC. They were paid with $300,000 of that DOE grant to create an analysis of the Central New Mexico economy that the group would use as a road map to put together their plans. Their analysis consistently emphasizes developing economic “clusters,” or key industry groups. Willard promoted this new language in an editorial column that same year in the Albuquerque Tribune, where he said clusters “are the geographic concentrations of business — the whole chain from the producer to the supplier–that drive our economy.” (6) An article in Sandia Lab News further expands this definition as “geographic concentrations of industries and the private and public institutions that support them, such as universities, national laboratories, financial institutions, workforce development programs, and governments.”(7)
The clusters identified and subsequently promoted by NextGen have been the following: tourism and artisan manufacturing; microelectronics; optics/photonics; microsystems; biotechnology/biomedicine; and information technology.(8).
One industry that was being promoted was biotechnology. This industry is one dependent on government support outside of the “free market.” With the nature of biotech drugs, it is common to take up to five or six years to come out with a new product. This requires much research and development over long terms with many scientists, grad students, and millions of dollars of equipment. They have this in universities, which are willing to support research over years of time without cutting funding. This is why many biotech firms have close relations with universities, and their lobbyists stress the importance of research universities like the University of New Mexico. (9) In a bulletin put out by Next Gen, they cite another report talking about “bioinformatics,” another emerging field with potential for start-up companies financed by venture capital. They stated “[T]hese start-ups need a skilled workforce, access to research universities or institutes, and possibly alliances with more established companies to help them through development stages.” (10) As this shows, free enterprise is not free, it depends on public monies for private gain.
Also promoted is the field of microelectronics. If there wasn’t any doubt the Next Gen ideology was about promoting further militarism this should represent it. For one, Sandia Labs was spearheading the microelectronics cluster. In a glowing promotion of Next Gen’s economic development initiative, Sandia Lab News notes the dual civilian and military uses of microelectronics. Sandia Vice President of Div. 1000 and Chief Technical Officer Al Romig said this: “Microsystems are a promising technology for nuclear weapons and other critical systems…but before we can use MEMS and microsystems n these critical systems, it must be shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are suitable. The best way to demonstrate reliability is to commercialize them and use them in everyday consumable goods — like televisions and automobiles. After years of demonstrating reliability, microsystems will be ready to go into critical systems.”(11). So here is a reverse spinoff effect, where consumer technology will aid the military. Who know that watching TV or driving your car would someday help the military learn new weapon systems.
In the next part I will talk more about Next Gen, how Intel profited with them, and much more. As always, Willard is centrally involved too.
(end of part 3) (go to part 4==>)
1. New Mexico Business Journal. Volume 21, Number 11. November 1997.
2. Willard, Larry D. “Community Profile: Visions of Albuquerque: Diversify or Die? We Still Rely Too Heavily on the Government for Jobs.” New Mexico Business Journal Online. 1997. http://www.nmbiz.com/cprofiles/cpro_albu_03.htm (Accessed May 11, 2000).
3. Baca, Aaron. “Metro Plan Seeks Job Development.” Albuquerque Journal. December 11, 1999. Pc. C1.
4. Press Release, Congresswoman Heather Wilson. “Department of Energy Awards $300,000 Grant to Next Generation Economy Inc.” June 20, 2003. http://wilson.house.gov/NewsAction.asp?FormMode=Releases&ID=643 (Accessed July 15, 2003)
5. IFC Consulting, located in Fairfax VA and San Rafael CA as a company “which specializes in strategies for science and technology-driven economies.” Press Release. City of Albuquerque. http://www.cabq.gov/economy/facts3.html (Accessed July 22, 2001).
6. Willard, Larry. “A Brief Chance for a Better N.M.” Albuquerque Tribune Online. August 30, 2000. http://www.abqtrib.com/opinions/080800_willard.shtml (Accessed August 30, 2000).
7. Burroughs, Chris. “Sandia Joins Next Generation Economy Initiative to Establish New Microsystems Industry.” Sandia Lab News. Vol. 52, No. 20. October 6, 2000. http://www.sandia.gov/LabNews/LN10-06-00/next_story.html (Accessed July 15, 2003).
8. Robinson, Sherry. “Six Industry Cluster Groups Give Wish Lists For Success.” Albuquerque Tribune. July 15, 2003. http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/business00/060500_next.shtml .
9. Abate, Tom. “Bayh-Dole Act Set Collision Course for U.S. Interests, Ethics; Two Decades Later, Many Questions Still Unresolved.” San Francisco Chronicle. August 21, 2000. Pg. B1.
10. http://planet.tvi.cc.nm.us/perkins/Supports/EconomicDevelopment/NextGenNewsJan2302 (accessed July 15, 2003)
11. Burroughs, op. cit.