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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Surveys Show What's Good, Bad For New Mexico Businesses

LAS CRUCES - A cross section of New Mexico business owners brag about hardworking employees and a favorable business climate but think the state lacks an adequately trained labor force, according to recent surveys in five counties.

Economic development specialists with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service compiled the results from surveys conducted in business retention and expansion programs. Participating communities include the city of Artesia and the following counties: Roosevelt (Portales area), Grant (Silver City), Luna (Deming) and Torrance (Moriarty, Estancia, Mountainair). The programs are partially funded and supported by the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

During the business retention and expansion projects, community members carry out the surveys in each area to gather information about problems facing local businesses. Outside experts provide training and technical assistance to help communities solve those problems.

"Our goal is to help existing businesses survive and expand in a community," said Bob Coppedge, Extension economic development specialist. "But once we'd done the surveys in five communities, we began to realize that maybe we were getting a database here that was worth looking at overall, and not just one community at a time."

In the last two and a half years, 384 businesses representing more than 10,000 workers responded to the surveys, Coppedge said.

"This is not a scientific sample, but we do feel that it indicates and substantiates some things we know are true about New Mexico businesses," Coppedge said.

Specifically, 92 percent of businesses surveyed said their workers had good to excellent attitudes toward work. In addition, 91 percent rated the productivity of their workforce as good to excellent.

"We've been proud of our state's work ethic, but I've never seen any information that's actually substantiated that," Coppedge said. "To me, this is something we could use in our economic development activities because you hear a lot of complaints in other states about poor attitudes toward work, and I think it speaks well of New Mexico's potential."

However, 51 percent of the business owners surveyed said finding qualified workers was troublesome. Two other labor issues, training employees and keeping good employees made the top 10 list of problems for businesses.

"To me, that does not contradict business owners, satisfaction with employees because it says once they find good workers and get them trained, then they have good attitudes and are productive," Coppedge said. "But somehow, we're not training our workforce as well as we should at some of the entry-level positions.

Overall, more than 80 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of their communities as a place to do business, rating their area as good to excellent.

Aside from labor issues, which topped the list of concerns in four of five areas surveyed, business problems varied by location.

Frequently mentioned problems involved health insurance, workers compensation and business insurance.