Kate Brown at her Oxberry animation stand in the Mimbres Valley.
LAS CRUCES - There's something to be said for New Mexico's unique combination of creative energy and technical know-how coming together to foster start-up businesses across the state.
New Mexico Magazine, the standard-bearer for the state's tourism industry — which first published in 1923 as the New Mexico Highway Journal — is shifting from open roads and endless turquoise skies to focus instead on the state's startups in the January issue on newsstands now.
The stories in the January issue connect the dots between the do-it-yourself maker movement and the creative and tech economies (cottage industries, startups, and incubators), and their relationship to the magazine’s core subject matter—the state’s distinctive recreation, tourism, hospitality and cultural assets.
One of the startups featured is a Mimbres Valley artist who worked with New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center, a business incubator, to make her mark.
While the shift from fiestas and enchanting landscapes won't be a year-long focus, the theme of highlighting local talent that moves into the business arena with the unique help of organizations like Arrowhead and other business incubators throughout the state will be a revisited theme, said publisher Dave Herndon. It's an opportunity for the magazine to highlight the economic development potential, not only in tourism but throughout the state.
"It's a little bit of a widening of the lens," Herndon said. "I maintain, and have been beating the drum for years, that New Mexico Magazine is on some level about economic development. It fits into the whole ecosystem of creating awareness and advocacy of the state's assets."
The magazine, with a monthly reach of roughly 300,000 readers worldwide, is primed to share the culture, lore, history and food, but also the state's lifestyle that can add up to an an attractive economic development tool, he said.
For January's edition, reporter Philip Connors and photographer Jay Hemphill set out for the Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch, about 30 miles east of Silver City. There, Kate Brown has set up a shop with an Oxberry animation machine. Arrowhead Center staff helped connect Brown with the experts needed to restore and operate the machine, thereby launching a new startup combining the classic artistic medium with modern scientific and technological know-how.
As a side note, Connors noted that getting the hulking Oxberry required "A Craigslist ad, two stevedores, ten hippies, a van with a nickname and a timely connection at New Mexico State University to park it there and make it run."
That's exactly what the state's primary tourism publication hopes to continue to highlight in an effort to let the world know New Mexico is ripe for startups.
A recent Census Bureau report ranks New Mexico as having the fourth-largest rate of startups in the country. Inc. Magazine also recently did a report on the many ways in which New Mexico is becoming the next entrepreneurial hot spot. This convergence of artistic "makers" and technological and business experts has created an environment unique to the state, Herndon said. And, he added, it was time for the venerable magazine to highlight the state's economic potential beyond tourism.
"This time instead of having a latent economic development subtext we had an explicit economic development message," Herndon said. "There are success stories in the state that are the result of core assets we have in the state — a great creative class, a great science and technology sector in the state — now they are starting to come together in interesting ways.
With the support of educational, governmental, civic, and private sector entities and institutions, these assets represent both grassroots opportunities and an enhanced menu of activities and options for visitors and residents, Herndon said.
"The point is there is grassroots stuff happening and now here's an infrastructure to support it," Herndon said. "One of the things that this whole issue is about is the ethos of the "maker" culture and the creative class. The foods sector used to be a cottage industry kind of like the do-it-yourself ethos which has always been prominent in New Mexico. Now DIY has pivoted to be the DIWO - Do it with others."
Griselda Martinez, program manager for Arrowhead, agreed that the time is ripe for more startups.
"One of the many programs we offer at Arrowhead is the New Mexico Small Business Program," Martinez said. "It started about 12 years ago with the mission of assisting small businesses throughout the state, originally with Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories. Five years ago we became a subcontractor to open our doors and NMSU expertise of our faculty and staff to supply advice to small businesses.
"We are seeking the best value possible for the companies coming to us," Martinez said. "If we don't have the skills to resolve a specific challenge we can refer them to Sandia or Los Alamos and it works the other way as well. They refer them to us. We really have become strong partners with the labs to result in the highest value for these companies."
And fostering these startups is going to become more a part of the expanding business climate in the state, she said. And, she added, a focus on marketing is needed more than bricks-and-mortar support.
"We are setting up a trend in the state focusing on market strategies and assisting businesses with that mindset," Martinez said. "With our incubator, real estate is one of the least important services we provide. Our approach to business creation and acceleration is always with marketing in mind. It's just how we operate in all our programs."
New Mexico Magazine is offering a free digital copy of it's January edition.
Jason Gibbs may be reached at 575-541-5451 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @fjgwriter.