Fastest-growing sector of city's economy? Manufacturing


For transplants from the Midwest, it's hard to see Santa Fe as a center of manufacturing, but a new study shows that businesses that actually make things or put them together represent the fastest growing part of the city's economy.

Grace Brill, a consultant with Market Intelligence Solutions and hired by the city's Economic Development Division, recently completed an analysis of growth and workforce trends inside the city as part of a continuing effort to better focus the city's money and energy on job growth.

Though manufacturing doesn't even emerge as one of the top job sectors citywide -- dwarfed by hospitality, health care and government -- it is by far and away the area favored by most startup companies in Santa Fe County.

A key point is that manufacturing is not just building Teslas or Tuff Sheds, but includes food, beverage, breweries as well as medical marijuana dispensaries. Not all of the manufacturing is done in Santa Fe, but the companies have some physical location here.

Examples of these new manufacturing businesses include Sigma Labs, Mesa Photonics, Shihan Fine Knives, Extraordinary Structures, O'Leary Built Bicycles, Superior Casting, Honeymoon Brewery, Cacao chocolate, Barrio Brinery, Marty's Meals and Sacred Garden.

Meow Wolf is classified as a manufacturing business and recently purchased the old Caterpillar plant to expand its capacity as it moves into other cities. But so is Outside magazine, even though the actual printing might be done elsewhere. Brill cites Whoo's Donuts as a growing manufacturing business in the city that might not be well known. "Whoo's Donuts, once a small retail doughnut store, is now selling to Whole Foods with an eye toward expansion into larger distribution," she said.

Of the 148 startups identified in Santa Fe County, 60 of them were primarily manufacturing, Brill said. The next closest sectorwas information, with 44 startups, followed by 39 in professional and technical services sector, 21 in the arts and 17 in retail.

So what can local government do to help these businesses grow their Santa Fe workforce?

Brill said there is a common observation that businesses in Santa Fe are "siloed," meaning they know others in their line of sight -- all the chefs and brewmasters in town know each other -- but not many outside that circle.

She suggests more outreach by the city in holding industry-specific roundtables to help owners connect them to each other as well as others who can provide them with supplies, labor, expertise, training, economic development resources and mentoring.

The report also urges the city to find out more information about small businesses that locate here -- how they originated and what they need in the way of resources, labor and how they intend to grow and expand.

Some simple things, such as an analysis of business licenses, has not been done because of data issues, Brill wrote.

"Simple questions such as 'what companies have received city support in the form of incentives?' Or 'what are the trends in industries represented by new business applicants?' could not be answered easily," wrote Brill.

The report also contains some interesting trends on future job growth, as compiled by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

The agency lists the top growth job in Santa Fe as ambulatory health care, with the forecast that it will add 1,200 jobs in the city between 2014 and 2024, an increase of 3.1 percent.

Other areas with growth above 2 percent will be beverage manufacturing, wholesale electrical agents and brokers, nonstore retail sales and securities investment work.

The need for food and drinking establishment workers will not go away, as that subsector is expected to add 866 jobs, an increase of 1.4 percent.

Contact Bruce Krasnow at brucek@sfnewmexican.­com.