As published in the Gallup Independent on 5/5/2020
Evan Williams, Executive Director
There are four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness response, and recovery. The step in the cycle that typically gets overlooked is the recovery part of this process as it is longer term, not as visible, after the fact, and thought to naturally occur on its own. To be frank, if the response does not happen effectively there is no reason to have a recovery plan, but recovery planning is indispensable in the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This means: an strategic action plan drafted, quality input and data garnered, assets and resources mapped, a Recovery Czar named, a partnership of private, public, and tribal sectors mobilized, and impact evaluated.
With our designation as the Economic Development District for our three-county region of Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan counties, the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments is being sought to assist our region and the US Economic Development Administration in leading on a comprehensive recovery plan.
Rightfully, there is a ton of focus on mitigation, preparedness, and response to the COVID-19 crisis, including economic support programs focused on providing relief to unemployed workers, businesses temporarily closed, and business owners having difficulties paying employees. Some of us are getting buried under the daily avalanche of COVID-19 relief programs and updates, but organizations and financial institutions exist to assist with connecting people and businesses to these short-term survival measures.
But who is thinking about long-term recovery and building business resiliency and redundancies for the new normal? After Hurricane Katrina, there was a recovery plan, process, and partnership to re-build communities affected by the disaster. To bring them back, not the same but hopefully stronger, more diversified, and more equitable in terms of opportunity and prosperity. With COVID-19 pandemic, never let a bad crisis go to waste. This is our time to set the table by taking a step back, planning our strategy, and implementing it together.
Our regional economy was already on the verge of crisis due to the collapse of coal markets. The price of oil is causing New Mexico to reduce spending. COVID-19 is compounding these problems with gross receipts tax revenues eroding to dust. So, why would we just re-arrange the chairs on the ‘Titanic’, when we could build a whole new ship. Let me be clear, I am not advocating for leaving on way side our region’s intrinsic assets, natural resources, or competitive advantages. These must be incorporated in a thoughtful approach as they are critical and not easily replaced in the macro picture.
The COGs around the State of New Mexico are working State agencies to develop a comprehensive but focused Recovery Plan for New Mexico to leverage resources in a way that builds a resilient, diversified, and globally sustainable economy. Our COG has drafted a framework and is surveying regional economic development professionals, community experts, and grasstops leaders to prune their best ideas. The challenge is not finding places where investments need to happen but prioritizing the top ones that will have the greatest impact and position our region for the future.
We know that businesses will reopen, employees will get back working, and taxes will begin to fill coffers to fund needed programs and services again. Bottom line, this is the American economy and Northwest New Mexico where business is still done with handshakes and hard work. But how does our region and New Mexico use this crisis to leapfrog our economy ahead? It is time to get into the game, roll up our sleeves, and kick a little butt New Mexico, not wait until manana. Let’s plan the recovery today!
Ways that the COG is preparing now to be the change in our region: