Albuquerque, NM – January 8, 2014 The Bernalillo County Commission voted to tentatively approve $1 million from the county for Innovate ABQ, the University of New Mexico’s economic development project to create an innovation district in downtown Albuquerque. The vote of 4-1 in favor is contingent on the County’s Economic Development Department reviewing the proposal before a final vote is taken later in the month. See Dan McKay’s article, “County Agrees to Contribute $1 Million to ‘Innovate ABQ’,” from the January 8th edition of the Albuquerque Journal, and Dianne Anderson’s January 8th article, “Bernalillo County Joins Innovate ABQ Project,” from the UNM Newsroom, reprinted below.
County agrees to contribute $1 million to ‘Innovate ABQ’
By Dan McKay, Albuquerque Journal
Bernalillo County commissioners tentatively agreed late Tuesday to contribute $1 million to the “Innovate ABQ” project aimed at creating a research district in Downtown Albuquerque.
Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of tentative approval, with Debbie O’Malley voting “no.” They also directed the county’s Economic Development Department to analyze the proposal before a final decision is made.
The University of New Mexico is leading efforts to carry out the project. The city of Albuquerque and others are also contributing money to get it started.
The goal is to buy the First Baptist Church property for use as a headquarters of the project. It would be a place where researchers, students, entrepreneurs and others could work together in ways that could create knowledge- and technology-based jobs.
Commissioner Lonnie Talbert called it a “bold move” that could help keep ambitious young people in New Mexico.
“That’s what we’re talking about today — investing in our young people,” Talbert said.
The idea, however, faced significant skepticism from O’Malley and Commissioner Art De La Cruz.
O’Malley said the county’s budget is already squeezed by the deteriorating value of its investment portfolio, making it a particularly tough time to commit to $1 million.
“We haven’t figured out how to right the ship yet,” she said.
De La Cruz ultimately supported tentative approval, but he said the county needs more information before making a final decision. “There is absolutely no detail” in what UNM presented, De La Cruz said.
The project could come back to the commission as soon as later this month, officials said.
Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said the project could help the local economy benefit more directly from research handled by national laboratories and universities in New Mexico.
“A lot of that research ends up being commercialized somewhere else,” she said.
Commissioner Wayne Johnson said: “I like the grand vision. We need to start creating our own jobs.”
Bernalillo County Joins Innovate ABQ Project
By Dianne Anderson, UNM News Room
The University of New Mexico added another partner to its Innovate ABQ venture, with the Bernalillo county commission’s tentative approval of $1 million to support the entrepreneurial and educational project downtown.
At a January meeting, the commissioners voted to approve the funding for the FY15 budget, contingent upon a final approval vote after the Economic Development department reviews it. With that commitment, Bernalillo county government would join the City of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Association as financial contributors to the development of a innovation center at Central and Broadway.
UNM is excited to have Bernalillo County as a partner in the Innovate ABQ initiative.
“The commissioners expressed a shared vision with us for an educational entrepreneurial approach to growing jobs and providing opportunities for New Mexico’s future,” UNM President Robert G Frank said. “We look forward to working with the county’s Economic Development Department on its analysis of the project.” Final approval of the funding could come as soon as later this month.
“Albuquerque is home to some of the best scientists and researchers in the world, a first-class university with many talented young entrepreneurs and established businesses looking for change,” Commissioners Lonnie Talbert said.
“Bernalillo County has incredible high-tech research institutions like UNM, Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base that are generating groundbreaking ideas, “Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said. “This new innovation center can harness the amazing creative talent from throughout the region and create jobs here in this community.”
The County’s interest follows a December decision by the UNM Board of Regents to move forward with the purchase of land, currently owned by the First Baptist Church. In a special meeting to discuss the Innovate ABQ proposal, the regents approved the purchase under specific conditions that ensure that environmental concerns about the property are met. The University’s foundation is contributing $800,000 in endowment funds, $325,000 to be used toward a master plan and design guidelines for the research district. The Innovate ABQ concept includes a business incubator and an Innovation Academy with a dorm and learning space for students. A committee headed by the Provosts office is researching how an innovation academy could work as an educational element within an entrepreneurial environment.
Frank applauded the commission for joining in the effort to create the innovation district, which he considers fundamental to the future of the university and the state. “Innovate ABQ is a way for us to better serve our students, open up more opportunities for our faculty and generate more jobs. We are thrilled the county wants to work with us, the mayor, the governor and the business community in supporting this endeavor.
STC.UNM, a non-profit corporation of the Board, will hold the title for the property and lead the Innovate ABQ effort under the direction of Lisa Kuuttila.
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