Albuquerque, NM – March 7, 2014 Innovate ABQ, the City of Albuquerque/UNM collaborative effort to create an innovation district in downtown Albuquerque, continues to gain support from stakeholders in the city’s efforts to increase economic development. See Garry Boulard’s March 3rd article, “Big Innovate Albuquerque Project Seen as Catalyst,” from Construction Reporter News, reprinted below.
Big Innovate Albuquerque Project Seen as Catalyst
Due diligence is under way on the University of New Mexico’s bid to purchase a 7-acre downtown site anchored by the First Baptist Church at Central Avenue and Broadway Boulevard.
If all goes well, that purchase will usher in an era of business incubator research and growth known as Innovate ABQ, with the site itself seeing the construction of an incubator building and dorm, among other structures.
“There is no hard date for when the purchase will be completed,” says Elizabeth Kuuttila, UNM’s Chief Economic Development Officer. “But we’re estimating a May time frame.”
The $7.2 million site purchase was approved by UNM’s Board of Regents in December, capping a year of activity during which the project won the financial backing of the City of Albuquerque, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, among other parties.
“UNM has been a part of our credit union in terms of eligibility and we’ve been supporting their community for about 25 years now,” says Anneliese Elrod, senior vice-president for strategy and development with the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union.
Noting that credit union President Terry Laudick and UNM President Robert Frank visited the University of Florida’s Innovation Space early last year, Elrod continues:
“He came back from that trip enthusiastic about the possibility of Innovate ABQ really shaping the future of northern New Mexico, particularly in the well-paying job front, which we all know is an important issue facing our state.”
Ultimately NMEFCU donated $3 million to get Innovate ABQ off the ground.
Despite such support, surrounding Innovate ABQ have been questions regarding its plausibility: is it really financially doable or a kind of World’s Fair that other cities in the past have embraced only to be left with debt and red faces after an overly-touted project fell short of delivering?
Those questions were publicly explored last month when members of the Bernalillo County Commission discussed committing $1 million to the project. Commission members initially held off until they could further study staff analysis on the project.
On February 11, with that analysis now in hand, the commissioners voted to approve backing Innovate ABQ. But that approval came with a claw back provision requiring Innovate ABQ officials to identify the remaining $13 million solicited for the project, that the county money be allocated on the back-end after all other project funds are spent, and that the money be delivered on a re-imbursement basis.
Those conditions, says Bernalillo County spokesman Andy Lenderman, in no way imply a lack of confidence in the project. “Generally speaking, in today’s economic climate, the county commission is very cautious about projects it invests in.”
“The board is very pro-economic development and job creation,” adds Lenderman. “However, the claw backs are seen as a good common sense measure.” Innovate ABQ’s public argument has been that it will lead not just to job creation, but will also spur business growth. A glimpse of how that might work is being seen with the decision by Stuart Rose, the founder of the BioScience Center, to open an incubator and collaborative working space in the old Albuquerque High School, across the street from the planned Innovate ABQ site.
“We wanted to be downtown, and it made perfect sense to be near Innovate ABQ,” says Lisa Adkins, the director of the BioScience Center and the new space, which is called Fat Pipe ABQ.
“We’ve been supportive of Innovate ABQ from the beginning and just feel that this is a good way to start activity down there,” adds Adkins. That decision, says Kuuttila, underlines Innovate ABQ’s basic premise: “It’s not just about that site. It’s about an innovation district that we want to see happen where Innovate ABQ is seeming to catalyze other activities around that site.”
Adds Kuuttila: “We ultimately want to work together and support each other and try to catalyze more and more innovation, which will, in turn, help everybody build more entrepreneurial companies.” Learn more about Innovate Albuquerque here. https://stc.unm.edu/econdev/innovateabq.php
Source: Construction Reporter News
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