Innovate: to introduce something new, as if for the first time.  The word couldn’t be more appropriate for the Innovate ABQ project, spearheaded by the University of New Mexico. Now the project has added its first private sector investment with UNM’s announcement of New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union as a founding partner. The credit union has committed $3 million in support of the innovation center in downtown Albuquerque.

Innovate ABQ creates an environment where students, educators, entrepreneurs, community and business leaders come together, spurring creative collaboration. The project to create a “live, work, play” high-density economic development district is designed to shorten the time and ease the process of business development and job creation. It has already received valuable interest and input from the City of Albuquerque and other government entities, but until now, lacked the business/corporate involvement required to make it successful. NMEFCU is providing the partnership and commitment from the private sector needed to bring this creative concept to life.

“New Mexico has unrivaled human talent,” Terry Laudick, president and CEO of NMEFCU 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.”

“We can only go so far from an education and government perspective. Having a private partner is critical to make this venture work,” UNM President Robert G. Frank said.  “NMEFCU is unrivaled in its vision, community support and leadership. We hope their investment will inspire other businesses and organizations to collaborate with their capital and resources to make a difference in New Mexico’s future.”

New Mexico Educators FCU joins the City of Albuquerque in making a financial commitment to the innovation center concept. Mayor Richard Berry set aside more than $2 million from a recent bond issue for the project. UNM is also awaiting word on a $1.5 million federal Economic Development Administration grant designated for Innovate ABQ. The University is considering the old First Baptist Church location downtown as a possible site for the innovation center, and continues to seek other partners, both public and private, for the project.

By fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, the project’s focus will be on promoting opportunities for knowledge worker jobs. Research shows that knowledge workers, those who use information as their primary resource, are essential to a healthy economy.

“Knowledge workers are one of the best predictors of high salaries across the board for individuals and communities,” Frank said. “In communities with more knowledge workers, service providers, from hair stylists to waiters and mechanics to roofers have a higher income than in communities with fewer knowledge jobs.”

Albuquerque already has key elements required for a knowledge economy including UNM - a Tier One research university with an associated teaching and research hospital, national research laboratories, government support and a committed business community.

"Innovate ABQ connects our local research community directly to private and government resources in a small, efficient environment," Laudick said. "Based on early results from similar projects in other states, this collaborative approach is incredibly effective."

Now in its 77th year, New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative and one of the largest credit unions in New Mexico. With more than 140,000 members and 16 branch locations, New Mexico Educators FCU serves its member-owners and their communities with a full range of financial services.

New Mexico Educators FCU, guided by its founding Cooperative Principles, is focused on the long-term growth of the community and has long-standing collaborations with a wide variety of outstanding education, healthcare, and other community organizations throughout New Mexico. 

Since 1981, New Mexico Educators FCU’s partnership with the UNM community has leveraged non-traditional resources to help strengthen and support the university’s goals in student retention and academic achievement. This collaboration has produced a myriad of innovative programs, including scholarships, financial capability curricula targeted financial products and a campus-wide Wi-Fi system.