The University of New Mexico added another partner to its Innovate ABQ venture, with the Bernalillo county commission’s tentative approval of $1 million to support the entrepreneurial and educational project downtown.

At a January meeting, the commissioners voted to approve the funding for the FY15 budget, contingent upon a final approval vote after the Economic Development department reviews it.  With that commitment, Bernalillo county government would join the City of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Association as financial contributors to the development of a innovation center at Central and Broadway.

UNM is excited to have Bernalillo County as a partner in the Innovate ABQ initiative.

“The commissioners expressed a shared vision with us for an educational entrepreneurial approach to growing jobs and providing opportunities for New Mexico’s future,” UNM President Robert G Frank said. “We look forward to working with the county’s Economic Development Department on its analysis of the project.”  Final approval of the funding could come as soon as later this month.

“Albuquerque is home to some of the best scientists and researchers in the world, a first-class university with many talented young entrepreneurs and established businesses looking for change,” Commissioners Lonnie Talbert said.

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

The County’s interest follows a December decision by the UNM Board of Regents to move forward with the purchase of land, currently owned by the First Baptist Church. In a special meeting to discuss the Innovate ABQ proposal, the regents approved the purchase under specific conditions that ensure that environmental concerns about the property are met. The University’s foundation is contributing $800,000 in endowment funds, $325,000 to be used toward a master plan and design guidelines for the research district.  The Innovate ABQ concept includes a business incubator and an Innovation Academy with a dorm and learning space for students. A committee headed by the Provosts office is researching how an innovation academy could work as an educational element within an entrepreneurial environment.

Frank applauded the commission for joining in the effort to create the innovation district, which he considers fundamental to the future of the university and the state. "Innovate ABQ is a way for us to better serve our students, open up more opportunities for our faculty and generate more jobs. We are thrilled the county wants to work with us, the mayor, the governor and the business community in supporting this endeavor.

STC.UNM, a non-profit corporation of the Board, will hold the title for the property and lead the Innovate ABQ effort under the direction of Lisa Kuuttila.