ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Exports from New Mexico have increased nearly 3 percent in the first half of 2016 thanks in part to the state’s booming border region around Santa Teresa, according to the state Economic Development Department.

New numbers released this week showed that New Mexico saw around $1.96 billion in exports from January to June this year. That’s an increase from $1.9 billion during the same period last year.

The agency said exports to Mexico rose 17.5 percent and exports to China ballooned by about 500 percent.

Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela said the growth is the result of a plan that began years ago.

“Six years ago, New Hampshire did more trade with Mexico than we did,” Barela said. “We knew we had to change that.”

Since taking office, Gov. Susana Martinez has met with officials from Mexico on a number of occasions to promote trade. She also has visited the booming industrial border area of Santa Teresa where many international businesses have snatched up inexpensive warehouse space.

Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association, the nonprofit group that functions as a governing body for Santa Teresa, said he wasn’t surprised by the export numbers because the state’s border ports have continued to see increased traffic.

“The bulk of the (export) growth has been from Santa Teresa so we are excited about this,” Pacheco said. “I think by the end of the year, southern New Mexico will pass central New Mexico as the largest exporter.”

Pacheco said popular exports include steel, plastics, packaging materials and wiring. He credited Martinez for the export growth and for helping Santa Teresa build its infrastructure.

However, New Mexico Democrats are blaming Martinez for New Mexico’s stagnant economy and pointing to a half-billion-dollar budget shortfall that has stemmed from the downturn in oil and natural gas sectors and week tax revenues.

“Gov. Martinez has ruined New Mexico’s economy, and now we’re facing a serious threat to our credit standing,” said Juan Sanchez III, vice chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. “Gov. Martinez needs to come up with a plan to fix our budget instead of waiting around and calling for cuts across the board without prioritizing New Mexico families.”

The governor has repeatedly said she will not consider any proposals that call for raising taxes and negatively affecting New Mexico families.

Martinez and lawmakers still have plans to hold a special session later this month, but an exact date has not been determined.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .