SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A company that manufacturers sustainable building products for the construction industry is moving to the Gallup area, which state officials claimed as proof they're making good on their word to bring more jobs to New Mexico's rural areas.
Gov. Bill Richardson gathered economic development officials at the state Capitol on Thursday to announce that C/D2 Enterprises is setting up shop north of Gallup. The company plans to start manufacturing this spring and will hire about 40 workers over the next three years.
"These are exactly the kinds of jobs that we're working to attract to New Mexico, especially in the more rural parts of the state," the governor said. "Our doors are open. New Mexico is open for business."
Richardson used the opportunity to send a message to legislators meeting for a 30-day session to continue supporting tax credits and other incentives that attract companies and jobs.
"These are working, they're bringing jobs," Richardson said of the incentives. "Let's not mess with these."
Despite the economic downturn and the state's budget woes, the governor said the state has announced 200 jobs for rural New Mexico in recent weeks and plans to announce an additional 100 soon for southeastern New Mexico. He declined to offer additional details.
Richardson's administration contends the incentives are responsible in part for creating jobs and keeping the state's unemployment rate below the national level.
New Mexico's unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in November, unchanged from the previous month but up from 4.6 percent a year ago. The national rate is around 10 percent.
Statistics from New Mexico's labor department show, however, that job growth in New Mexico has declined by 3 percent over the past year, representing a loss of more than 25,000 jobs.
New Mexico is not alone. All states have reported declines in job growth over the past year, the department said.
State lawmakers are being cautious as they consider how to deal with a $600 million budget shortfall while being pressured by the administration and industry groups to continue providing tax credits and other incentives. Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque, said the state must ensure it is getting a return on its investment.
"The problem isn't whether or not these incentives work. The problem is ... there is no way of quantifying how much the incentives are costing per job created and retained," he said.
Griego said the incentives are beneficial when companies pay a living wage, offer benefits and have a long-term commitment to staying in the community. When companies pay low wages and have no commitment, Griego said: "Frankly, they're just using the taxpayer."
The owners of C/D2 Enterprises said their jobs will pay as much as $23 per hour and they are committed to the Gallup community. The location near Interstate 40 allows quick transport of their products to military bases and other customers in the Southwest.
State officials said the company is benefiting from more than $367,000 in job training funds, capital outlay money and high-wage tax credits.