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Bernalillo County Commission Approves $1 Million Funding for Innovate ABQ Innovation District

Albuquerque, NM – February 20, 2014 The Bernalillo County Commission confirmed its support of the Innovate ABQ innovation district with approval of $1 million in funding to the project at its February 11th meeting. The Commission had tentatively approved the funding at its January meeting but the final vote of approval came at last night’s meeting. The money will go towards the construction of the business incubator. To read more about the meeting and plans for the future, see four articles, reprinted below, from the Albuquerque Journal’s February 12th posting, “County Oks $1 Million for ‘Innovate ABQ’,” on abqjournal.com; Dan Mayfield’s Feb. 12th article, “Latest Innovate ABQ Funding to Spur Incubator Construction,” from Albuquerque Business First; Karen Wentworth’s Feb. 12th article, “Bernalillo County Commission Votes to Join Innovate ABQ Project,” from UNM Newsroom; and Chloe Henson’s Feb. 20th article, “County Donates to Innovate,” from DailyLobo.com.

County OKs $1 million for ‘Innovate ABQ’
Albuquerque Journal

Bernalillo County commissioners on Tuesday approved a $1 million contribution toward the “Innovate ABQ” project aimed at boosting economic development.

The money was approved 4-0, with Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley absent because of illness.

The proposal was sponsored by Commissioners Lonnie Talbert and Maggie Hart Stebbins.

The University of New Mexico is leading the project. The county’s money would go toward renovating a building at the First Baptist Church site near Downtown into a business incubator – part of a larger economic-development project.

The county’s approval comes with “clawback provisions” and other conditions.

Latest Innovate ABQ funding to spur incubator construction
Dan Mayfield, Reporter, Albuquerque Business First

Bernalillo County Commission votes to join Innovate ABQ project
Karen Wentworth, UNM Newsroom

The Bernalillo County Commission recently voted to approve $1 million to the Innovate ABQ project. The money will be added to the $2 million pledged by the City of Albuquerque, the $3 million from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, almost $1.5 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration grant and the more than $700,000 from the UNM Board of Regents.

Commissioners Lonnie Talbert and Maggie Hart Stebbins sponsored to proposal to partner in the Innovate ABQ initiative. “Albuquerque is home to some of the best scientists and researchers in the world; a first-class university; many talented young entrepreneurs and established businesses looking for a change,” said Talbert. “We’re proud to support this partnership and to collaborate with the business community, the City of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico on job creation.”

“Bernalillo County has incredible high-tech research institutions like UNM, Sandia National Laboratories and KAFB that are generating groundbreaking ideas,” Stebbins said. “This new innovation center can harness the amazing creative talent from throughout the region and create jobs here in this community.”

UNM President Robert Frank thanked the commissioners for their leadership. “Innovate ABQ creates a path for UNM to better serve our students, open up more opportunities for our faculty and generate more jobs,” Frank said. “We are thrilled to work with the mayor, the Bernalillo County Commission, the governor and the business community who have provided great support to us.”

The money will be used to purchase property owned by the First Baptist Church at the northwest corner of Central Ave. and Broadway in the east downtown part of Albuquerque. UNM is in the process of purchasing the property, an action which is expected to be complete by late spring. Once the purchase is complete, a master planning process for the property will begin.

Since both public and private entities have contributed funds for purchase of the property and will be involved as the project expands, discussions are now underway to establish a governance structure for the project. That activity is expected to be completed over the next few months.

The commission voted 4-0 to support the project. The measure does include a claw back provision that would require the funds be distributed on a cost-reimbursement basis.

Innovate ABQ is expected to provide a physical space for local entrepreneurs to live, work and play. UNM is organizing an academic framework to allow students to receive credit for business activities they undertake on their way to a degree. The university also plans to begin searching for a private partner or partners to construct dormitory space for students on the site. Frank says the vision is to establish a district where students, graduates and other local entrepreneurs will have a strong support structure to share ideas, create products and concepts as well as start-up companies.

County donates to Innovate
Chole Henson, DailyLobo.com

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners decided to pitch in $1 million to Innovate ABQ last week.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Lonnie Talbert said he proposed contributing the money because he wanted to help the people of Albuquerque take advantage of a centralized innovation center. He said he also wants to help provide opportunities for young people in the state.

“I want to give (my kids) the opportunity, along with many other young people and entrepreneurs, the chance to really stay here in New Mexico and find an opportunity for employment,” he said.

Talbert said Innovate ABQ has the potential to bring businesses and entrepreneurs in from outside of the state. The innovation district could also help the businesses in Albuquerque.

“We can continue to grow those businesses and then attract new ones from outside of the state,” he said.

Innovate ABQ is a planned live-work-play environment that would also serve as an incubator for businesses. The center would include research and commercial labs, educational programs, business services and commercial and retail businesses, according to the STC.UNM website.

Talbert and Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins both sponsored the proposal to join in on the project, according to a UNM Newsroom news release.

The four commissioners present for the decision voted unanimously to contribute the money to Innovate ABQ, Talbert said.

“People recognize that during these times we need to take some bold moves,” he said. “We need to put forward our best foot in terms of not only creating jobs, but keeping jobs here.”

Lisa Kuuttila, CEO of STC.UNM, said she had been working with all of the commissioners on this proposal for some time.

“They’ve been interested and really involved in project, I would say, for over a year now,” she said.

Kuuttila said the money will go towards constructing a building on the First Baptist Church property located at Broadway and Central.

“The funding is in place to purchase the property, so this money, this $1 million, is the start of the funding towards one of the buildings on the project, which is the incubation building,” she said.

The initial estimate for the cost of the incubation building was about $14 million, but it could now be less, Kuuttila said. She said contributions to the project could help make the space more affordable to businesses that want to locate there.

“The more we can do to help facilitate the financing of that building, the better we’ll be,” she said. “So, the county’s investment in that incubator is extremely important to the project.”

The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the UNM Board of Regents have all donated a total of about $7.2 million to the project.
“We’re working with the UNM Foundation on more private donors who may have an interest in the project,” Kuuttila said. “This is a big project. It’s going to take a lot of funds.”

Source: STC.UNM

For more information, contact:

Denise Bissell
(505) 272-7310