First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church property at Central and Broadway, NE.

The Bernalillo County Commission recently voted to approve $1 million to the Innovate ABQ project. The money will be added to the $2 million pledged by the City of Albuquerque, the $3 million from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, almost $1.5 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration grant and the more than $700,000 from the UNM Board of Regents.

Commissioners Lonnie Talbert and Maggie Hart Stebbins sponsored to proposal to partner in the Innovate ABQ initiative. “Albuquerque is home to some of the best scientists and researchers in the world; a first-class university; many talented young entrepreneurs and established businesses looking for a change,” said Talbert.  “We’re proud to support this partnership and to collaborate with the business community, the City of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico on job creation.”

“Bernalillo County has incredible high-tech research institutions like UNM, Sandia National Laboratories and KAFB that are generating groundbreaking ideas," Stebbins said. "This new innovation center can harness the amazing creative talent from throughout the region and create jobs here in this community."

UNM President Robert Frank thanked the commissioners for their leadership.  "Innovate ABQ creates a path for UNM to better serve our students, open up more opportunities for our faculty and generate more jobs,” Frank said. “We are thrilled to work with the mayor, the Bernalillo County Commission, the governor and the business community who have provided great support to us."

The money will be used to purchase property owned by the First Baptist Church at the northwest corner of Central Ave. and Broadway in the east downtown part of Albuquerque. UNM is in the process of purchasing the property, an action which is expected to be complete by late spring. Once the purchase is complete, a master planning process for the property will begin.

Since both public and private entities have contributed funds for purchase of the property and will be involved as the project expands, discussions are now underway to establish a governance structure for the project. That activity is expected to be completed over the next few months.

The commission voted 4-0 to support the project. The measure does include a claw back provision that would require the funds be distributed on a cost-reimbursement basis.

Innovate ABQ is expected to provide a physical space for local entrepreneurs to live, work and play. UNM is organizing an academic framework to allow students to receive credit for business activities they undertake on their way to a degree. The university also plans to begin searching for a private partner or partners to construct dormitory space for students on the site. Frank says the vision is to establish a district where students, graduates and other local entrepreneurs will have a strong support structure to share ideas, create products and concepts as well as start-up companies.