|State Auditor Tim Keller & former State Sen. Dede Feldman|
The political discourse in New Mexico has centered on ways to create jobs and support economic growth. State and local governments play a major role in the process. One obvious and very visible way to accomplish this goal is to provide tax breaks and other incentives for out-of-state companies to relocate to New Mexico.
A less visible and equally important economic development tool is to encourage state agencies to hire more instate businesses to provide goods and services. A report from the State Auditor's office suggests that more can be done in the area of food purchases. “Our report found some very sensible way s to support the local economy by working to shift more spending to instate companies," said the report. "Even just purchasing coffee and baked goods locally would create 100 permanent jobs, more than the [planned Facebook facility in Los Lunas].
According to the report, the Department of Corrections and the public schools are both succeeding in promoting local purchases, according to the report and testimony from experts who participated in a panel and presentation sponsored by the State Auditor's office on June 16. Here are a couple of excerpts from the report:
With the support of Corrections Department leadership, the Corrections Industries Division (CID),launched a pilot program , working with New Mexico State University, to build hoop houses for growing vegetables at the correctional facility in Santa Fe. Inmates were involved in the building and planting. The project yields hundreds of pounds of vegetables per harvest, including kale, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini. Inmates get fresh salads during harvest season, which addresses historical grievances about the lack of vegetables. CID has now partnered with a school to build a hoop house for the school’s cafeteria, allowing inmates to give back to the community .
Department of Corrrections blog
Santa Fe Public Schools has invested in warehouses and large, well-equipped kitchens with equipment and tools, so the need to purchase processed foods is less acute. This is possible because of the support from the community through bond elections that allowed the district to access capital outlay funding. They also structure their local food contracts in such a way that other school districts can “piggyback” and purchase those same goods without going through a new procurement process. Albuquerque Public Schools issues two food commodity requests for proposal: one targeted to local suppliers and one targeted towards larger intermediaries and food suppliers.