UNM Economic Development
UNM President Robert Frank address UNM's Second Economic Development summit, Rainforest 2.

More than 200 participants met at the University of New Mexico Student Union Ballroom to discuss activities the university has launched to promote economic startup activity in Albuquerque.

UNM President Robert Frank says information from the "Rainforest 2" conference participants will help give the university information about how to grow the economic development effort and move on to the next level.

"Our job as a university is to serve our community so we have a great opportunity to demonstrate that service here, but more than that we have chance to build together, to partner and to make something greater than any of us alone," Frank said. "We’ve got the community, we’ve got the city, we’ve got the county and the business leaders and this is really making something much greater than any of us could do by ourselves."

Keynote speaker for the conference Greg Horowitt, co-author of “The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley” and co-founder of T2 Venture Creation, reminded conference participants how important it is to optimize the economic development environment so that everyone plays an equal and important role. And he said it is important to constantly imagine a future different from your current reality. Economic development activity at UNM is lead by Lisa Kuuttila CEO of STC.UNM and Chief Economic Development Officer for the university.

When Frank began the university’s turn toward economic development in 2012, there was a limited structure within the university to develop entrepreneurial ideas from students. Now the university, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the City of Albuquerque, the County of Bernalillo, Nusenda Credit Union and the UNM Board of Regents has purchased and begun developing a physical area west of the university at Central and Broadway for students to use to develop small companies.

"This is a reflection of the past three years of the work we’ve been doing on economic development for the University and a look forward as to our future working with the community on building our Rainforest," said STC.UNM CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuutila. "We showcased the partnerships with the community in several ways. The national laboratories and the university, startups that have come out of UNM the last few years as well as our new Innovation Academy."

Innovate ABQ is currently in the process of hiring an executive director and has released an RFP to begin development of the property.

Meanwhile the academic component of the project, Innovation Academy is accepting Innovation Scholars and planning ways to help guide students with a good business idea to resources and support.

The summit was a checkpoint to think about the university and community commitment to economic development and to discuss the university’s progress to this point. Frank says they will try to use information from the summit to development a framework for what needs to be done.