“Leave It in the Ground” Movement Buries New Mexican Jobs

On the front page of the Albuquerque Journal was a bright white sticker advertising “Samsung Austin Semiconductor will be in Albuquerque…. conducting interviews for experienced Engineers and Technicians!”

So it appears Texans understand that the future of the semiconductor industry in Albuquerque is facing challenges. Which begs the question, “How did we go from a thriving semiconductor industry to one gasping for air?”

This past summer in Portland, I had the good fortune to sit down with Intel Corporation’s past Director of U.S. Corporate Affairs Group. I asked her about Intel’s status in New Mexico, and why Intel is not investing in New Mexico as in other states.

Her answer was simple and unsurprising. In the 1990s, New Mexico had a very loud Intel opposition group that made its opinions heard all the way up to the top tier of Intel management. Like people, corporations don’t tend to stay where they are not wanted.

Was New Mexico taken off their list of desirable places to do business? The evidence appears clear: Intel invested billions of dollars into Arizona at the expense of New Mexico. But is this evidence true?

A Google search “Intel Protests, Albuquerque” yields the chronological history of “All Eyes on Intel.” This group’s Facebook page lists their efforts from beginning to end. Example: how a few folks in Corrales were able to gain the support of Sandoval County’s government, Sandia Pueblo, and the state of New Mexico’s government to force Intel to enact environmental protection measures exceeding federally required mandates.

The evidence of their success is the slow demise of the last Intel semiconductor plant in New Mexico, with its good-paying jobs.

So here we are today: Samsung Austin Semiconductor is interviewing experienced semiconductor workers who are out of work or will soon be out of work, and who have no hope of finding new semiconductor jobs in New Mexico. Those workers who are hired, and their families, will be leaving Albuquerque for Austin. With them will go retail jobs, restaurant jobs, school jobs, medical jobs, church jobs – in short, the entire community supported by those semiconductor jobs.

When my company loses a contract for a construction project to a competitor, we review what went wrong and what went right. Our community leaders need to perform the same review. How did we lose our semiconductor industry that so many states seek?

The answer is obvious: weak government leaders more interested in protecting their own jobs than ensuring jobs for the future of New Mexico. That may not be a crime, but it’s a crying shame.