Thursday, February 7, 2013

On the Ground! - the NM Windows Project

Rounding Out the Windows Project
                            MeanMesa fully acknowledges the difficulty in persuading our State legislature to depart from its current unwieldy, conventional "jobs creation" ideology.  Given our recent history, there is little room for glowing expectations.  It would also be unfair to direct all this blame at the present Governor, either.  The administration which preceded hers had plenty of bad habits, plenty of State revenue and no shortage of unworkable economic growth proposals of its own.
However, this series of posts -- hopefully -- has offered an argument suggesting a serious departure from these ideas of "economic development" we've seen in the past. For an argument such as this to "get traction" the ideas underpinning it must be individually methodical, robust and, most of all, completely clear.

This "poverty" situation may be one we've managed to come to accept, but the stark facts of the State's economy are, frankly, devastating.  New Mexico absolutely faces a disastrous situation in all the metrics which stand behind that "poorest state in the union" label.  This state of affairs is grave enough when considered only as an economic reality, but New Mexicans all over the State are also paying a terrible personal price, too.

In this series we have looked at general ideas about:

a "demand economy," 
the  history of incentives for businesses to relocated here,
the "one approach" mind set for tackling the problem,
the "supply side solutions"  to the State's systemic poverty, 
the MeanMesa proposal for the Windows Modernization Project,
the legislature's role in the project,
and, with this post, 
what the project would look like as it were being implemented.

The links to posts in this series are:

Supply and Demand in the High Desert
New Mexico: Getting Serious About Economy Growth
New Mexico: Recovery Jump Start or Marshall Plan?

[Click on this graphic to see the text clearly.]
We can envision following the windows project through a few landmark progress stages.

1.  Complete legislation and funding for pilot project

When the Round House is finished with their work, the pilot project will be legally defined and adequately funded.  An over all manager must be selected and hired, and as soon as this office is filled, a full time auditor should probably be the next employee.  

After so many and so frequent occurrences of pilfering and corruption have littered every effort our State has made for decades, we should make certain that the windows project goes over board for transparency and accountability.

2.  Design low cost, thermal windows

The actual windows which maximize thermal efficiency with low cost and ease of installation have to be designed.  The experience of those who have made windows in the past will be a great help.  The final design product needs to be one which is uniquely suited for use in the weather and conditions in New Mexico.

Many of the high end windows are designed for installation in areas with thermal insulation requirements quite different from those commonly found in the State.

3.  Set up staff and facility to finance window installation - train employees with rules

The pilot program will have, accompanying it, a pilot financing program.  There will be rules and conditions in the legislation which creates the program, and the financing section must be able to adhere to the law.  Applicants for subsidy financing or loan guarantees  must be processed correctly, and the results must be subject to an on-going audit.

It's too bad that New Mexico only has one Hector Baldera.

4.  Train workers for the pilot plant
5.  Train and certify window installers

The New Mexicans who will be constructing the windows in the manufacturing plant and those who will be responsible for installing the windows in homes across the State will need training.  Unlike the highly popular and expensive "job training" we see emerging from Santa Fe now, this training will be required for actual jobs when it's been completed.

The criteria for certification will not be extremely difficult to meet, but the process should be designed to discourage nepotism and influence peddling.  In a manufacturing environment, measuring the performance of workers is generally quite straight forward because the labor product can be directly counted.

All the employees in the program will be subject to State labor regulations, but each of them can be fired by the over all manager for failing to produce.

6.  Locate the pilot project plant in an area with high unemployment

The manufacturing facility for the pilot program should be located where the need for jobs is great.  Granted, all sorts of considerations would be easier if the plant site were in a larger town or city, but one of the attractive features of the program is its suitability to more rural locations.

When the pilot program has been through its "shake out" phase, manufacturing facilities can be located all across the State.  Once the full program has been implemented, there could be window manufacturing facilities in six or eight locations.

The State of New Mexico already owns buildings which were never able to be used for their original purpose.

7.  Hire some experienced window makers for setting up the pilot plant
8.  Design the plant, infrastructure -- use existing facilities where possible

Throughout this series the idea of hiring manufacturing workers with window making experience has been repeatedly suggested.  A window making plant is not a hospital, computer factory or a space port, and the advice of experienced workers in the trade will prevent this pilot project from becoming expensively similar to any of those things.

These same experienced window makers will play an important role in directing the training programs for window construction and installation certifications.

The "plant and infrastructure"  mentioned here can actually be rather simple and inexpensive.  Preliminary ideas along this line should include everything needed with respect to roads and utilities, warehouses, site developments such as fencing and area lighting, fire suppression and so on.  The design of the pilot program facilities should accommodate license and code compliance requirements.

9.  Plant construction

The pilot program -- as is the case with all aspects of the project -- should require in-state labor and firms for its construction needs.  Every effort should be taken to make sure that money spent for the project winds up going to a business somewhere inside the State.

Remember, we're working on creating a demand economy, not creating over fed, out of state contractors with connections in Santa Fe.  Don't fool yourself.  This type will be clustered in the shadows, and they will all "know" somebody.

The basic legislation setting up the pilot program should include strong state procurement practice regulations.  All facility expenditures should be designed, specified and bid as compared to the all too popular, "I'll take care of it." approach.  This is designed to spread economic growth all across the State, not simply create another cell mate for Manny Aragon.

10. Set up materials suppliers
11. Set up transportation needs 

At least some of the materials procurement which corresponds to the final design of the pilot program's windows  will, necessarily, lead to out of State suppliers.  New Mexico does not currently have a glass factory -- although it could -- and the State has no logging industry capable of providing the scale or type of materials which will be required.

Contracts to supply the materials needed for the pilot program's manufacturing must be bid and purchased under the State law.  Transparency in the procurement process will be very important. 

Warehousing has been mentioned before.  The inventory needed to support the manufacturing must be determined, and the transportation needed to bring materials to the plant as well as haul windows to installation sites will also need to be organized.

MeanMesa suspects that some of the trucks needed could be extracted from the annual flow of obsolete vehicles which are routinely replaced by the State government.

12. Accept orders for window purchase and installation

When there are completed windows stored in the facility warehouse, trained installation crews, a functional management staff and an operational financing and loan office ready to to business, the pilot project will be ready to accept -- and fill -- orders for new residential windows.

Be Ready For the Bumps

Of course we should anticipate some difficult days as this thing slowly becomes a reality.  For exactly this reason the management of the project must have not only a proven problem solving capacity, but also a good history of learning from mistakes.

Right away we can assume that the State's "free enterprisers" will start howling when the legislation is first proposed in the Round House -- and keep howling long after the first satisfied customers are able to enjoy their homes made warmer and more efficient by their new windows.  We know this bunch.  We've already seen them in action.

Another probable obstacle will be seen when State legislators, frightened with the prospect of actually having to manage something useful, will run screaming off to hire every consultant they can find.  Although consultants are conveniently available to accept not only their over priced consulting fees, but also any politically damaging blame which might arise in the process, our legislators will, most likely, want to stick to them like glue.

So, to keep our eye on the ball, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we're trying to begin a demand economy, create jobs inside the state and help residents have a better life -- not over feed a clutch of parasitic consultants.

Let's make some windows.  Let's start actually solving some of our problems.

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