“Santa Fe is like a high performance vehicle that has yet to be assembled,” said Mayor Gonzales.
He went on to say that Santa Fe’s engine is revving – rich in over 400 years of the arts, steeped in culture and set in a landscape that inspires. It’s the sun drenched light and the colorful setting that has spoken to artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Gustave Baumann, and many others. Santa Fe has more artists than any city its size and is the third largest art market in the US.
The Mayor is right. Santa Fe’s engine is revving. But even though it is the oldest capital city in the US with a powerful engine, they are still assembling this great vehicle. Let's examine some of the key components.
Wheels of Education
Mayor Gonzales is focusing on the city's social wellness, bridging the gap between the extreme wealthy and the desperate poor. According the US Census Bureau, 18% of the people in Santa Fe are below the poverty level. While 12% of teens (16 -19 years old) are not attending school or working notes SpotlightOnPoverty.org.
But the city is taking great strides in improving education to drive productivity growth. Santa Fe has:
- Added three new schools in 2014
- Built the first high school “drop back-in” program designed to recapture recent dropouts and put them back on track to receive a high school diploma.
- Extended school hours with twilight classes
- Witnessed a substantial uptick in students attending summer classes
- Added more dual credit and certification options
The school district is going through fast-paced change and the Mayor is spot on. Education is the wheels of the city; it will be the minds of the next generation that will successfully roll this city into the future.
High-Octane Fuel MIXed with Entrepreneurship
Santa Fe is looking for a fuel that can supercharge their economy. Right now the major employment opportunities are in tourism and government. As they pump up the wheels of education, the city needs to offer graduates an economic opportunity to leverage their learnings locally.
As Mayor Gonzales said the city offers a great environment for startups by providing access to artistic and creative ideas. To attract more startups, Santa Fe has partnered with Silicon Valley accelerator – Founder Institute. Under Startup Santa Fe the city has set up an incubator and access to resources to help move ideas to reality.
I could absolutely see myself moving to Santa Fe to start a business – daily being inspired by the arts, seeing new perspectives from the great outdoors, and relying on Santa Fe's startup infrastructure for support. Watch out Santa Fe! I might be back.
Body of Sustainability
Santa Fe is moving full steam ahead and has set out a serious goal of being carbon neutral by 2040. This high performance car will be made from the most efficient material and have a one-of-a-kind look.
I was able to talk to John Alejandro, Renewable Energy Planner for Santa Fe. He was a wealth of knowledge and is the man putting together an aggressive sustainable plan to meet this ambitious 2040 goal.
Part of the equation is to: scale up renewable energy and reduce energy use.
Scale up Renewables
Right now the city has 850 residential and commercial solar systems, making up 1.8% of the city’s energy.
Most of the solar is actually on government buildings, providing 25% of their energy needs.
They have plans to continue adding solar. Though the local utility isn’t making it easy to add solar to the grid, John is spearheading options: behind the meter solar, community solar projects and micro grids. Also the Santa Fe Community College has a robust sustainability program and is examining 3rd generation algae biofuels.
Reduce Energy Use
First step is for the city to get a base of their energy use across residential, commercial and government buildings. It always surprises me how utilities withhold this information. It hasn’t been easy for the city to access these basic metrics. But John is finding a way and is starting to track metrics like usage, emissions, greenhouse gas and more.
In tangent, they are planning to do energy efficient retrofits and raise citizen awareness on energy use.
FULL THROTTLE into the Future
In 25 years this iconic adobe city will have a new look. The high performance car that Mayor Gonzales spoke of will be fully assembled and blazing a new way forward.