Albuquerque, NM – November 11, 2013
UNM President Robert Frank announced that the first private funding commitment to the Innovate ABQ project has been made by the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union. The credit union will donate $3 million towards the purchase of the downtown headquarters site to be located at Central and Broadway. To read more about this latest development in the UNM/City effort to create an innovation district, see Kevin Robinson-Avila’s Nov. 11, 2013 article from the Albuquerque Journal, reprinted below.
Educators’ credit union donates $3 million to Innovate ABQ
University of New Mexico efforts to build a high-tech research and business development hub in Downtown Albuquerque just got a $3 million boost from the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union.
The donation marks the first private financial commitment to “Innovate ABQ,” which UNM and the city of Albuquerque jointly are promoting as a cooperative effort among public and private entities to turn the city’s core into a bustling center for technology-based economic growth.
The city has already committed $2 million in bond funding to the project, which voters approved in October, and UNM is expecting imminent approval of a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
That, combined with the credit union’s $3 million contribution, has raised UNM confidence that it can purchase the seven-acre, First Baptist Church site at Central and Broadway SE that it’s targeting as Innovate ABQ’s future headquarters, said UNM President Bob Frank.
“The credit union has come forward with a private gift that brings the project closer to fruition,” he told the Journal. “We’re gathering a substantial amount of dollars now, enough to at least encumber the land and move forward.”
UNM has secured a purchase option, valid through Dec. 31, on the Downtown site. The property has a $7.5 million asking price, but by law the university can only pay the plot’s appraised value of $6.6 million, or about the amount UNM expects to have available once it receives the EDA grant, Frank said.
University leaders will present plans for buying the Downtown site to the Regents on Tuesday in a closed session. They will also discuss a proposal to purchase the Aperture Center at Mesa del Sol, a 78,000-square-foot building where UNM expects to immediately begin building the foundations for Innovate ABQ while the First Baptist Church site is developed.
The Aperture Center would cost $4.5 million, which would be wholly paid for by UNM, Frank said.
“We’ll say to the regents, ‘Here’s our vision. Are we all on the same page?’ ” Frank said. “We expect them to give us detailed feedback, and then we’ll take a formal crack at getting it approved after we go through committees. This will really be a planning meeting.”
The credit union donation, however, marks a turning point in the Innovate ABQ initiative, since it’s the first monetary commitment from a private entity.
“We can only go so far from an education and government perspective, so having a private partner is critical to make this venture work,” Frank said. “We hope (the credit union’s) investment will inspire other businesses and organizations to collaborate with their capital and resources to make a difference in New Mexico’s future.”
The donation will be administered by the UNM Foundation, which has created a dedicated fund to allow more entities and individuals to contribute to Innovate ABQ, said credit union President and CEO Terry Laudick. It’s the largest single gift to date made by the credit union, which has provided broad financial support for educational programs in the past.
“This gift is a long-term investment that I believe will bring significant returns to our community and our credit union members many times over in terms of improved opportunities and lifestyles in Albuquerque,” Laudick told the Journal. “This is what we’re chartered to do as a nonprofit cooperative — bring community resources together for the greater good.”
Laudick said Innovate ABQ has the ability to unite government, academia and the private sector in a cooperative effort to “redefine” the vision for Albuquerque and New Mexico’s future.
“New Mexico has unrivaled human talent,” Laudick said. “We believe working with our educational and government partners to leverage that knowledge and skill will greatly improve the educational, workforce and economic opportunities for our state.”
As Innovate ABQ gains momentum, private funding will become critical to build out the Downtown site. UNM and project supporters envision development of a master-planned community that would include new research laboratories and incubator space for technology startup companies to develop, residential housing for students and entrepreneurs, office space for support services, and retail and entertainment-related businesses that, taken together, would turn the district into a comprehensive innovation hub where people “live, work and play.”
“This project is a game-changer, and we need to make it a public-private partnership where all state players come together to make it happen,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.
“Our goal is to make smart public-sector investments that will help attract and catalyze private sector investments to build out Innovate ABQ. We’re very happy that the credit union is making a large-scale investment, and we’re hoping it’s the start of many more businesses coming in here to do what they do best.”
Source: Albuquerque Journal
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