New chairman brings tribal perspective to business group

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Mike Canfield is the first tribal member to serve as board chairman for a business advocacy group that covers New Mexico's largest metropolitan area.

Canfield is a member of Laguna Pueblo and will lead the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

As CEO of Indian Pueblos Marketing, Canfield previously led an ambitious effort to reshape the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center with $70 million in new development. He also headed the Laguna Industries manufacturing operation.

He tells the Albuquerque Journal that as the chamber's board chairman, he wants to give a voice to a perspective that hasn't always been well represented in Albuquerque's business community.

"We have a lot of (tribal) community members here, in business and otherwise, and it's nice to have that perspective," he said.

Canfield took over in July. Since then the chamber has moved into a new downtown office, revamped its logo and website and thrown support behind a bond measure that would, among other issues, establish a homeless shelter that supporters say would help address persistent crime and homelessness issues.

Canfield said it's important as tribal members to be involved where they can.

In 2017, the state's 19 pueblos brought more than $608 million into New Mexico, according to a study conducted by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Canfield's focus has been on helping businesses as well as working with chamber staff on city-wide issues.

Terri Cole, president and CEO, said the Albuquerque chamber looks at its mission a bit more broadly, focusing on systemic issues that affect the city's business community.

Cole said the chamber has identified "bold issue groups," or BIGs, facing the city: public safety, downtown transformation and education reform. She said the chamber has partnered with a wide variety of groups to make headway on each of those issues.

"We focus on making the community a better place," Cole said. "So being community-minded is a priority."

Canfield said he also wants to work on addressing Albuquerque's persistent negative image. While he acknowledged that Albuquerque still has significant problems, he said he'd like to work on positive messaging, broadcasting some of the elements that make Albuquerque unique, rather than harping on negative aspects of the city.

"We're not Denver, we're not Phoenix, we're not Dallas, and I don't think we ever want to be," Canfield said.