My Turn

Opinion: What if we invest in New Mexico?

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Recently my sons asked, "Daddy, when you're governor can you stop our friends from leaving?"

They've watched too many friends from our neighborhood and school leave with their families in search of better opportunities.

It hurts to think that even at a young age, they are fully aware that something is wrong.

My sons, Asher and Gage, are my motivation and my daily reminder of the importance of the work ahead for our state.

Yes, we are struggling. But we don't need more studies or statistics.

What we need is leadership.

That's why I am running for governor. To turn New Mexico around.

For too long, we have had a governor content to make decisions for the next political cycle, not the next generation. It's time that we have leaders with imagination, creativity, and the will to make serious, game-changing investments into our state.

So I ask, what if we did things a better way?

Here's an example.

New Mexico is the 2nd sunniest state, yet 48th when it comes to renewable energy production.

That's crazy.

If we invest into a strength, our beautiful sunshine, we have the capability to generate enough clean energy to power other states while fueling job creation at home.

We will turn New Mexico around by investing in ourselves.

Did you know New Mexico has state investment funds the size of Canada, Australia, Brazil and Mexico? ... Combined!

So let's put our $21.6 billion dollars to work for us.

Instead of arguing over pennies in Santa Fe, what if we invested 5 percent of these funds back into New Mexico? That still leaves us with $20.5 billion in New Mexico's investment funds - and that doesn't even account for future performance of the funds.

Let's put New Mexicans to work repairing schools, bridges, arroyos and acequias. Let's invest in new startups that are leaving to grow elsewhere and into new technologies.

Where we don't invest, others do. That's why we're losing homegrown companies in expanding fields like cyber security, robotics and 3D imaging.

We must invest into 95 percent of our economy - local small businesses - to help New Mexico grow.

We're short hundreds of doctors and nurses. Let's invest in higher education, in teaching, in medical, nursing and dental schools and then follow that up with a promise to our young people:

If you're willing to fill a need in our schools or hospitals and give back where we need you most, then we've got your back with low-interest loans, tuition credits and tools to ensure that we're building communities, not only companies.

And we'll invest in skilled trades at every level, restore lost trade classes to our middle and high schools, and work with local labor unions to strengthen and expand successful apprenticeship programs.

There's no reason that tens of thousands of jobs need go to out-of-state workers because we don't have the skilled workforce necessary to do the jobs. We're going to fix that.

So, what does all of this add up to?

When we invest in New Mexico we know we can create 225,000 new jobs - a job for every New Mexican who needs one.

But we cannot leave anyone behind.

That's why we're going to support drivers of our economy - women, the middle-class and millennials - with equal pay, a living wage, earned sick leave, childcare, and investments in the sharing economy that allows thousands of New Mexicans to earn extra income.

But to do all of this, we must make another massive investment in our future.

It's time for our generation to step up and guarantee year-round early childhood education and early family development resources for every child in New Mexico.

So what if we find a better way than what we're doing right now?

When we invest into our state, together, we will turn New Mexico around.

Apodaca is a Democrat running for New Mexico governor.

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