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NMSU to launch Center for Border Economic Development

New Mexico State University’s College of Business will house a new resource hub dedicated to promoting business expansion and economic development along New Mexico’s southern border region.


Man standing behind whiteboard.
New Mexico State University economics professor Christopher Erickson will launch the Center for Border Economic Development, a new resource hub dedicated to promoting business expansion and economic development along New Mexico’s southern border region. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
Headshot of woman.
Lucinda Vargas, a former Federal Reserve economist and postdoc researcher, is helping to launch the Center for Border Economic Development in the New Mexico State University College of Business. (Courtesy)

Planning is well underway for the Center for Border Economic Development, or C-BED, a new project spearheaded by longtime NMSU economics professor Christopher Erickson.

“C-BED will identify impediments to border business expansion and economic development and bring to bear the resources of NMSU to help overcome those impediments,” said Erickson, head of NMSU’s Department of Economics, Applied Statistics and International Business.

“In our conversations with private businesses and organizations, we identified a need for economic analysis and data along this region,” he added. “We, of course, plan on being a source for data as we move forward with setting up the center.”

Erickson said the center remains in its early stages, but his overarching goal is to further economic development in Doña Ana, Luna and Hidalgo counties.

Recent expansion of international trade has not resulted in a commensurate increase in employment and growth along the New Mexico southern border region, Erickson said. For example, he said, overall trade at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry totaled more than $30 billion in 2019, an increase of 17.4 percent over 2018. But gross domestic product lags in other key border areas across southern New Mexico, he added.

“Our center will work closely with businesses, governments, NGOs and other border stakeholders to identify impediments to economic development and propose solutions to help overcome those impediments,” he said.

Erickson will fund the center’s first year with funding associated with the Garrey E. and Katherine T. Carruthers Chair in Economic Development. Additional funding will come from the NMSU Community Outreach work-study program. He recently hired one full-time employee, Lucinda Vargas, a former Federal Reserve economist and postdoc researcher, to help launch the center, as well as an undergraduate work-study student.

“A key aim of C-BED is to address a void that exists right now when it comes to data and resources on border economic development,” Vargas said. “NMSU’s strategic location along the U.S.-Mexico border needs to be more fully exploited in terms of opportunities for applied research and cross-border collaborations that capitalize on its border context. C-BED can step in to help bring a lot of these opportunities to fruition.”

For the center’s first project, Erickson and Vargas are creating a database of resources for border businesses facing economic uncertainty due to the pandemic. Once complete, the database will be accessible for free on a public website. Erickson and Vargas will likely collaborate with the New Mexico Border Authority to develop and launch the site.

“Right now, we’re developing data pages on how to recover from the impact of the pandemic,” he said. “We’re also looking at the effects of the pandemic on border traffic and activities along the border. With this information, we hope to develop insights that will allow us to help people, businesses and governments recover from the pandemic.”

C-BED also plans to partner with NMSU personnel from the colleges of Business, Engineering and Arts and Sciences on projects to promote business expansion in the border region.

Jim Hoffman, dean of the College of Business, praised Erickson for his efforts to further economic development in New Mexico.

“C-BED will be an invaluable resource to the business community in the border region. It will shed light and understanding on one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy,” Hoffman said. “It will also help NMSU reach its long-term strategic goals of becoming a leader in economic and community development and using research-based approaches to solve global challenges.”