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City Lands Planning Grant from National Consortium

Albuquerque, NM – March 7, 2014 Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has announced that the city of Albuquerque has been chosen to receive a planning grant from the Living Cities, a consortium of philanthropic and financial institutions whose mission is to improve the lives of low-income people living in cities. The $100,000 grant will be used to plan ways to increase opportunities for low-income populations living in Albuquerque by revitalizing downtown Albuquerque and increasing economic development through the Innovate ABQ project to build an innovation district. The University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union will be co-partners with the City in the planning process. The grant could lead to additional funding for the planned projects. To read more, see Dan McKay’s March 6th article, “ABQ Gets Prestigious ‘Living Cities’ Grant,” from the Albuquerque Journal, and Dianne Anderson’s March 6th article, “UNM’s Innovate ABQ Helps City Get Prestigious ‘Living Cities’ Initiative,” from UNM Newsroom, reprinted below.

ABQ gets prestigious ‘Living Cities’ grant
By Don McKay, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writier

Albuquerque will join the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and two other cities in potentially qualifying for tens of millions of dollars from a national consortium of charitable groups and banks — money that could be put toward Downtown revitalization as part an effort to improve “economic mobility.”

Mayor Richard Berry told the Journal on Wednesday that his office will lead the effort, in partnership with the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union.

The money is available through “Living Cities,” a collaborative effort by 22 of the world’s largest charitable foundations and financial institutions. Communities across the country applied, but only five cities were selected. They will receive initial grants of $100,000 each to plan out ways to help low-income people and improve their communities. Besides Albuquerque, the other four are Seattle, San Francisco, San Antonio, Texas, and New Orleans.

Future funding in the form of low- or no-interest loans and grants depends on proposals generated in the planning process.

The “Living Cities” selection is an endorsement, the mayor said, of local efforts to bring a “bus rapid transit” system to Central Avenue, revitalize Downtown and improve economic development through UNM’s “Innovate ABQ” effort at the old First Baptist Church. All of those projects might receive financial help through “Living Cities.”

“This really opens up the door for Albuquerque,” Berry said in a meeting with Journal reporters and editors. “That’s good company to be in.”

UNM President Bob Frank said he’s incredibly excited and hopeful about the opportunity.

“New Mexico should be the biggest innovation state in the country with the labs and the opportunity we have here,” he said. “… I think it’s the biggest moment the city’s ever had.”

The city will spend the next year planning how it might use the funding. Millions could be at stake.

In the last round, the five cities chosen initially ended up getting $12 million to $20 million each.

That effort resulted in about $85 million in grants, low- or no-interest loans and similar funding.

Berry and other civic leaders who spoke with the Journal on Wednesday were reluctant to say how Albuquerque might use any money it receives.

“There’s a million ways to use it,” Frank said. “The only thing that limits us is our creativity in the planning process.”

But it’s possible the city could get financial help to plan improvements to the bus system and at the First Baptist Church site. Entrepreneurs might also have access to funding they could use to help start businesses.

Frank has led an effort that appears to have been critical to Albuquerque’s selection — a plan to create a research district based out of the old First Baptist Church complex at Central and Broadway. The goal is to create a place where start-up companies, researchers, students and entrepreneurs are all housed together, spurring creativity and innovation.

The city’s plans for a bus-rapid transit — a system that mimics light rail, only with buses that have their own dedicated lanes — also piqued the interest of “Living Cities.”

Berry said Albuquerque’s application was organized under a theme of both Downtown revitalization and “economic mobility.” The city has several programs aimed at helping people improve their job skills to boost their careers or find new ones.

Terry Laudick, president and chief executive officer of New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, said the initiative is aimed at helping people help themselves.

It’s “not about picking a city for urban renewal,” he said. “This is about targeting low-income individuals and presenting them opportunities for self-help and mutual self-help.”

Laudick’s credit union has contributed $3 million to the “Innovate ABQ” project. One of the credit union’s executives, Robin Brulé, will move over to City Hall to coordinate the “Living Cities” effort.

“The Mayor’s Office will be the backbone of this initiative,” she said.

She and others involved in the effort said the help from “Living Cities” could spur other investment in Albuquerque.

Gary Oppedahl, Albuquerque’s director of economic development, said there’s “money on the sidelines that been waiting” for the right time to invest.

The “Living Cities” group includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bank of America, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and others.

Berry said the city must work hard over the next year planning how it can take advantage of the chance for national help.

“We’re in the game in a big way, with only four other cities in the country,” he said. “Lots and lots of cities vied for this.”

UNM’s Innovate ABQ helps city get prestigious ‘Living Cities’ initiative
Mayor’s office spearheads $100,000 planning grant that could earn millions more

UNM Newsroom

Innovate ABQ, the University of New Mexico’s planned hub for entrepreneurial education and economic development will be a central part of a new initiative announced by Mayor Richard Berry this week. The partnership brings in an initial $100,000 investment with the potential to leverage multi-millions in grants and loans as it progresses.

“Living Cities,” an innovative collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions has selected Mayor Berry’s office to head up a team of local leaders and institutions in an Integration Initiative. It is designed to improve residents’ ability to change their economic status, create jobs, advance education and strengthen the local economy with a focus on downtown revitalization.

“Albuquerque is one of five cities in the nation that we think has great potential to be a long term innovation partner with Living Cities,” said Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Albuquerque to bring our tremendous local leaders together with significant resources to address challenges and seek solutions right here at home,” Berry said. “We have great partners and great ideas that will create opportunities to impact our future and the future of our citizens in a very positive way.”

Core partners with the mayor’s office will be UNM President Robert G. Frank and the Innovate ABQ team and Terry Laudick, president and CEO of New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union (NMEFCU), also a major contributor to Innovate ABQ. Additional community partners will be added as the initiative moves forward during the upcoming planning year.

“It is a part of UNM’s mission to help find solutions to complex societal challenges.With Innovate ABQ, we are bringing leaders in both the public and private sectors to partner with us in developing a new approach to moving knowledge from mind to market. We are honored and excited to be the educational partner in the Living Cities initiative,” Frank said.

The Living Cities Integration Initiative provides funding to mayors and cities that show leadership in the areas of fundamental change of obsolete systems, capacity to leverage existing resources, and the will to reshape policies to meet the needs of a cross section of residents for greater economic mobility.

“Credit Unions and cooperatives have played a significant role in developing communities for many years. Our principles and commitment to people helping people and mutual self-help is not only to provide access to financial services, but also to make permanent improvement in people’s lives through education, social change and economic opportunity,” said Laudick.

The first year of the Integration Initiative is known as the planning year, and includes a start-up grant of $100,000 to support the planning effort. Additional funding is awarded based on concepts and associated resource requirements developed during the planning year.

The first Integration Initiative launched by Living Cities in 2010 invested $85 million in grants, flexible debt, and commercial debt from Living Cities and its members in five cities across the country.

Members of Living Cities include; The Annie E. Casey Foundation, AXA Equitable, Bank of America, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi Foundation, Deutsche Bank, Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, MetLife, Inc., Morgan Stanley, Prudential Financial, Inc., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Surdna Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Wells Fargo.

Additional information about Living Cites and the Integration Initiate can be found at Living Cities.

Source: Albuquerque Journal

For more information, contact:

Denise Bissell, STC.UNM
(505) 272-7310