Governor Susana Martinez held press events at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Tech today announcing two proposals to boost the state’s high-tech industry and jobs. At UNM, Gov. Martinez outlined a $7.5 million endowment plan that would allow New Mexico’s colleges and universities to compete for the nation’s top faculty.  

“We can better prepare our students for the modern workforce by continuing to recruit the nation’s top faculty members, and by empowering students and faculty to put their ideas, innovations and inventions to practical use in the global economy,” Martinez said.

UNM President Robert G. Frank, who joined the governor, for the announcement underscored the importance of maintaining top faculty. 

“The highest honor we can bestow upon our faculty is the distinction of an endowed chair. It recognizes their uniqueness and provides valuable financial support for their research, teaching and service,” Frank said.  “When we attract and retain the best faculty, then the best and brightest students will flock to our universities and become the future of our state.”

Competition is the driver behind the governor’s proposal. In the upcoming legislative session, she is backing a measure to reform the Higher Education Endowment fund to distribute endowment money to New Mexico colleges and universities based on a project-by-project basis. She is requesting $7.5 million be added to the fund. Currently, the law distributes endowment money through a formula.

“Right now, that formula is not based on which projects are the most promising or the most innovative or the most likely to attract the best or brightest to New Mexico, and that’s not right,” Martinez said. “Every state dollar from the fund should go to targeting endowed chairs that will improve the quality of students and have the most impact on our economy.”

All projects would be required to have a 50 percent match in private funds. UNM has leveraged past matching gift programs by 100 to 200 percent. As a result of three previous matching gift programs, UNM has added $17.9 million in matching funds to $34.9 million raised from private donors.

“Donors greatly appreciate the heightened value of a state match to their gifts,” Frank said. “It doubles the impact of the gift and stimulates more giving.”

During her second stop at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, Martinez announced an initiative that will encourage the national laboratories and research universities to collaborate on projects to turn innovative ideas in commercially available products.  

Last spring, Gov. Martinez signed into law a bill that reestablished the Technology Research Collaborative (TRC). This new $2 million proposal would fund the Collaborative and fill board seats so that it will be ready for implementation in 2014.

“New Mexico is often referred to as ‘ground zero’ for the high-tech world because we have so many great resources,” Martinez said. “In order to capitalize on our resources and diversify our economy, it’s important that we streamline the pipeline of innovation, making it easier for technology to be accessed, created, and spun into private-sector jobs and success.”