By Troy Tudor
One of the privileges I have had in my time with the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce was to launch the Las Cruces Young Professionals organization.
The launch came about after one-on-one conversations with nearly 100 young professionals in our community, and has led to conversations with countless more since its beginning. There are now nearly 400 individuals participating in the group and nearly 800 interacting on social media.
One of the major concerns of this demographic is the opportunity to succeed in their careers. For some, it is establishing a career; for some, it is growing a career; for others, it is building their own business. Other areas of concern include the ability to prosper, to raise a family, to be a leader in our community, to give back, - the list goes on.
We know, as a community, we have lost many of our best and brightest because they do not see that opportunity and have moved to other places where the opportunity exists. Currently, the chances for a young person to find a job in their field after graduation in our community are minimal. Many of the young professionals in the group have expressed having struggles succeeding in our community and many are considering leaving if things do not change.
For the record, there are many not-so-young professionals in the same boat. With the current climate of the increased minimum wage, increased GRT, increases in health care, increases in impact fees and more, there are many who have moved operations over the past few years and many who are considering it now. This just makes the problem worse.
So what are we missing? I have been examining that question by researching what successful communities are doing to expand their economic base and provide opportunities for success.
One area with a similar population to ours is Sioux Falls, S.D., which is experiencing phenomenal growth. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Its unemployment rate is just 3.3 percent. The success story of why its economy has sped forward starts with a second-term mayor, Mike Huether, who ran on a “economic platform that emphasized the importance of modernizing the city’s infrastructure and continually broadening its economic base,” according to an article in Free Enterprise.
You can see his focus has paid off by some of the things he outlines on the city’s website with quotes like, “It’s the economy, and oh my, ours is booming,” “Good jobs everywhere,” “Recordbreaking construction again,” “Sales tax revenues are sky-high” and “City government is being run like a business.”
Lest you think they have out-ofcontrol growth, he also addresses the recently passed Shape Places Zoning Ordinance and public transportation sustainability, a new events center and indoor pool. So you see this city has many of the same goals as ours.
But there are some huge differences between Las Cruces and Sioux Falls – the numbers don’t lie. Forbes Best Small Places for Business and Careers ranks Sioux Falls at No. 5 in the country, while Las Cruces comes in at No. 39. When you compare the stats (see accompanying chart), you can clearly see we are falling short.
It is time we ask ourselves the hard questions about what can we do differently. Do we have the right tools, the right mindset as a community for that kind of success?
Huether was quoted as saying, “You also have an environment where it’s definitely pro-business. … We do things differently here. We cut through red tape – or we don’t have red tape at all. … Profit is not a dirty word here.”
There is another big difference: It doesn’t just attract retirees, it is able to attract young professionals also. The Las Cruces Young Professionals are launching a new committee to bring their issues forward, while the Chamber will continue to expand work on economic renewal initiatives for our community. Stay tuned for more.