It’s Time we Turn Lemons into Lemonade

It’s Time we Turn Lemons into Lemonade

  • Post published:August 2, 2016
  • Post category:Issues

Manufacturing: We’ve lowered taxes and allowed larger manufacturers to negotiate electric rates mostly in the hope of attracting new manufacturers to the state. That’s great and we should continue to pursue those options.

But what about New Mexico’s home grown manufacturers? What can we do now to help them grow their businesses? Can we promote their businesses outside of the state to increase demand for their products? Imagine what that would mean to our state!

If we look at some of New Mexico’s current manufacturing companies, we see that they are primarily producing products used in the oil and gas industry and for our national labs. We don’t want to see them abandon either avenue, but what if they could sell those same products in other states for the same industries and others. Those manufacturers would need to expand operations which would mean increased jobs and revenue for the state. That would be a beautiful thing!

As the official State Affiliate Group for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), NMBC will be searching for these and similar opportunities for our in-state manufacturers. NMBC will soon be attending a NAM convention in Biloxi, MS with the hope of exploring these options and others.

New Mexico Rail Runner: Business in the front; party in the back? By now, many people have strong feelings about the Rail Runner with a growing angst that it wasn’t a good idea for New Mexico. It operates with only a fraction of what it costs the state, and has two huge balloon payments of $110 million each coming due in 2025 and 2026 respectively.

But let’s look at this a different way – out of necessity. And let’s get a couple of things straight from the beginning: 1) the Rail Runner was a bi-partisan decision of the legislature and then Governor Richardson; and 2) there is little desire and/or internal fortitude to do away with it.

So what’s a state to do with such a big commitment that doesn’t come close to earning its keep? To start, why not consider ways to create opportunities, rather than continuing to lament the investment that doesn’t seem destined to change?

Let’s consider doing something along the lines of the train that goes from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon. This venture has become a revenue producer for this little town and a destination for tourists. We enjoyed this a few years ago and marveled at what they had created. Read more about the Grand Canyon train from Williams, AZ here. Colorado is doing it, too, with the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Since the Rail Runner is never full, why not turn the last train car into an ‘experience’? For a relatively small investment, this car could be turned into a tourist attraction that will bring more revenue to cities on the route.

The total package experience could have concessions in the car including New Mexico wines and beers and creatively catered snacks. Wine and beer manufacturers could feature their ware on a rotating basis to help gain exposure for their quality craft; caterers could find new exposure from traveling execs planning future retreats and conferences.

Travelers could enjoy live entertainment with local musicians playing for tips and CD sales. Tickets could be sold that allow people to travel between cities in the same day or return days later. And they could include some really fun stuff as part of the deal. It’s possible to staff the concessions and music only in off peak times that allow the train to cater to employees traveling to work with the ‘tourist’ option operating in off peak times.

Remember, we’re suggesting tourist/conference pricing that should be negotiated by the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureaus with their local hotels and restaurants. If you have ever attended a conference in another city, you know they often offer activities planned for the spouses or extra-curricular activities for attendees. Prices may seem high, but they are well within what many tourists and convention attendees are used to paying. This pricing could provide a positive bump in revenue to the Rail Runner, but more importantly, offer new business opportunities for different companies, restaurant and hotel facilities.

For example, the Grand Canyon train charges $65 to $219 roundtrip for adults (different pricing for children). The Rail Runner could charge $50 roundtrip for adults (After all, we probably won’t add the mock train robbery due to train delays that wouldn’t work for regular riders in different cars.)

Add-ons for the Rail Runner could include adult round trip per person plus:

Lunch in Albuquerque or Santa Fe $100 This would be a prix fixe (fixed price, set menu negotiated with a few participating restaurants.)

Albuquerque or Santa Fe Trolley Tours $100

Hotel for one night, per person based on double occupancy $175-$250 This would be a negotiated rate with participating hotels during off season and would include a higher priced supplemental for single travelers. In season pricing during Balloon Fiesta and other events would be significantly higher.

Lunch plus hotel $225-$300

Dinner plus hotel $275-$350

Super package: Lunch, trolley tour, and hotel $250-$325

We’re not saying this will cover the train’s costs; in fact, it won’t come close. But if the train is going to keep running, why not do something to enhance its value? If New Mexico True wanted to do something spectacular outside of its great commercials, this would be a way to really promote New Mexico’s businesses, create additional revenue for the train and other industries and make something amazing out of what many people believe was a bad decision.

And, as we try to figure out what to do with Spaceport America, there’s also the option to run special event trains down there as well. Another thought for another day . . .

The Rail Runner is already experiencing interest for private-public partnerships. If the state can’t figure this out, maybe an entrepreneur that believes in this state’s potential could do it.

In real life, it’s not only possible to make lemonade out of lemons; it’s always good to add a little sweetness to life!

Contact NMBC with your ideas about how to help New Mexico Turn Lemons into Lemonade, and/or comments at nmbiz@nmbizcoalition.org.