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Innovate ABQ Groundbreaking Marks Start of Construction of the Lobo Rainforest Building

University, cDSCN1966ity, county, state, and business leaders and community members gathered at the core site for Innovate ABQ on Tuesday morning in downtown Albuquerque to witness the groundbreaking ceremony for the research and innovation district’s first facility—the Lobo Rainforest Building. The Innovate ABQ project was begun three years ago as a multi-partner effort to stimulate New Mexico’s economy and transform it into an innovation economy through the creation of new companies and jobs from the abundant technologies and innovative entrepreneurial programs available at the state’s research universities and labs. To read more about the event, see Kevin Robinson-Avila’s article “Innovate ABQ groundbreaking highlights student entrepreneurship,” from the Albuquerque Journal, Dianne Anderson’s article, “Partners break ground for new building at Innovate ABQ site,” from UNM Newsroom, both reprinted below, and Stephanie Guzman’s article, “Innovate ABQ breaks ground, search for CEO still on,” at http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2016/07/12/innovate-abq-breaks-ground-search-for-ceo-still-on.html. Also see Megan Cruz’ report, “Ground breaks for new project: ‘Innovate ABQ’,” from the KOAT Channel 7 News at http://www.koat.com/news/ground-breaks-for-new-project-innovate-abq/40480080.

Innovate ABQ groundbreaking highlights student entrepreneurship

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 10:48am

University of New Mexico nanoscience and microsystems engineer Harry Pappas believes an anti-microbial cleaning wipe he helped develop at UNM will allow hospitals and medical clinics to kill bacteria in a single swipe.

Pappas, who graduated from UNM this year, is working to market the product through his recently formed company, BioSafe Technologies LLC. The startup already has financial backing from the Nevada-based venture investment firm Sunbelt Technologies Management LLC, allowing it to license the technology from UNM, seek U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval to sell its anti-microbial wipes and begin marketing efforts in the medical industry.

Pappas personifies the type of young, aspiring student-turned-entrepreneur that UNM is seeking to inspire, train and assist through Innovate ABQ, the high-tech research and development hub the university is building at Central and Broadway Downtown with the city, the county and private partners.

To highlight those goals, Innovate ABQ invited Pappas to speak at the groundbreaking Tuesday morning for the project’s first building — a six-story, 160,000-square-foot facility that will open in August 2017. The ground floor will house commercialization programs for emerging technology from UNM and the state’s other research universities and national labs, UNM’s educational Innovation Academy for student entrepreneurs, and up to 310 students in two-bedroom apartments on the building’s five upper floors.

“Innovate ABQ will allow students and researchers to surround themselves with others who have similar goals in entrepreneurship and innovation,” Pappas told about 75 people who gathered for the groundbreaking. “They need lots of skill sets, such as communications, team work, problem solving and critical thinking. They can learn those things from the new opportunities offered through Innovate ABQ and the Innovation Academy.”

UNM President Robert Frank said Innovate ABQ will provide a place where students and researchers can come together with entrepreneurs and business professionals to gain the skills and access the resources they need to launch and grow new businesses like BioSafe.

“These startups, these seedlings, I think will grow into full-scale businesses here,” Frank said at the event.

Local, state and private sector leaders attended the groundbreaking, which kicked off the first new construction at the old Baptist Church property, a seven-acre site  UNM acquired in 2014 with funding from its public and private partners.

Mayor Richard Berry called the groundbreaking a “new day” for economic development based on the public and private sectors working together.

“It’s the wave of the future,” Berry said. “… (We’re) taking risks on behalf of the next generation of leaders.”

Pappas said such efforts are critical for young people like him to pursue entrepreneurship.

Pappas is now president and CEO of BioSafe, which is using technology developed by David Whitten, associate director of UNM’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, in cooperation with University of Florida chemist Kirk Schanze. They developed a synthetic compound that attaches to bacteria and, when hit by light, emits an element that kills bacteria and most other pathogens.

Pappas worked to imbed that compound in an anti-bacterial cleaning wipe.

“Young people like Harry Pappas are key to commercializing technology like this,” Whitten said. “He‘s now gained far more business knowledge than I have to take this to market.”

Partners break ground for new building at Innovate ABQ site

First phase of construction gets underway at downtown innovation site to house students, researchers and businesses

By Dianne Anderson —
It’s a little tough to break ground in an old parking lot, but that is what the Innovate ABQ partners did to kickoff construction of the Lobo Rainforest Building. The nearly 160,000 square foot, six-story facility will be the Phase I Building at the seven-acre core site of Innovate ABQ at Broadway Blvd. and Central Ave. in downtown Albuquerque.

“We are planting the first ‘economic tree’ in our desert rainforest,” said Robert Frank, president of The University of New Mexico, who led the effort to create the site shortly after taking office in 2012. “This is the result of an idea – a seedling – that took root three and a half years ago, has been nurtured and cultivated by our partners, and will grow into a future harvest of innovation for our state.”

Joining Frank at the shovels for the ceremonial turning of dirt were Innovate ABQ, Inc. Board Chair Terry Laudick, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, Bernalillo County Commissioner Lonnie Talbert and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.

“It’s an exciting day” Laudick said. “There were many people in this community who didn’t think this was going to happen, but we just weren’t going to let that stand in our way. With the right partners and the right vision, helped by a strong working board, it has happened.”

A portion of the current structure will be razed to begin construction on the Lobo Rainforest Building, which is the first phase of a four-phase development plan. It will house STC.UNM and its incubator – the Cecchi VentureLab – as well as the UNM Innovation Academy for student entrepreneurial training.

“The Lobo Rainforest Building is an extraordinary opportunity and a catalyst for our city, higher education and downtown,” said Mayor Richard Berry. “This project will help the revitalization of downtown Albuquerque by bringing UNM’s Innovation Academy and student housing to the InnovateABQ site.”

The Innovate New Mexico program for statewide technology commercialization, an Air Force research lab, a Nusenda Credit Union Branch office, and a café will also be located on the first floor, while the second through the sixth floors will be devoted to student housing and a small fitness center. Each of the 155 apartments will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms available for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students.

“STC is thrilled to be co-located with the other tenants in the building.  Working with the Innovation Academy, UNM students will have a nurturing environment to test their ideas and start companies,” said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer, STC.UNM.

“It brings together our students; it brings together entrepreneurs; it brings together researchers; it brings together our community,” Frank said.  “When all these things get together, in the mix every day, we know the outcome will mean new businesses, research studies and great opportunities.”

Future plans call for an incubation building that will serve the needs of researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs who want to start their own companies. Other proposed development includes renovation of parts of the existing church building on the site for office, community and event space; parking structures; retail space and pedestrian-friendly green space.

Money to purchase the property, which formerly housed the First Baptist Church, came from the Nusenda Credit Union, the City of Albuquerque, a grant from the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration through STC.UNM, Bernalillo County and the UNM Board of Regents.

Board members for Innovate ABQ include representatives from the City of Albuquerque, County of Bernalillo, UNM, CNM and local business leaders who guide development of the property.