Innovate ABQ, the University of New Mexico’s planned hub for entrepreneurial education and economic development will be a central part of a new initiative announced by Mayor Richard Berry this week. The partnership brings in an initial $100,000 investment with the potential to leverage multi-millions in grants and loans as it progresses.

"Living Cities," an innovative collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions has selected Mayor Berry’s office to head up a team of local leaders and institutions in an Integration Initiative. It is designed to improve residents’ ability to change their economic status, create jobs, advance education and strengthen the local economy with a focus on downtown revitalization.

“Albuquerque is one of five cities in the nation that we think has great potential to be a long term innovation partner with Living Cities,” said Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Albuquerque to bring our tremendous local leaders together with significant resources to address challenges and seek solutions right here at home,” Berry said. “We have great partners and great ideas that will create opportunities to impact our future and the future of our citizens in a very positive way.”

Core partners with the mayor’s office will be UNM President Robert G. Frank and the Innovate ABQ team and Terry Laudick, president and CEO of New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union (NMEFCU), also a major contributor to Innovate ABQ. Additional community partners will be added as the initiative moves forward during the upcoming planning year.

“It is a part of UNM's mission to help find solutions to complex societal challenges.With Innovate ABQ, we are bringing leaders in both the public and private sectors to partner with us in developing a new approach to moving knowledge from mind to market. We are honored and excited to be the educational partner in the Living Cities initiative,” Frank said.

The Living Cities Integration Initiative provides funding to mayors and cities that show leadership in the areas of fundamental change of obsolete systems, capacity to leverage existing resources, and the will to reshape policies to meet the needs of a cross section of residents for greater economic mobility.

“Credit Unions and cooperatives have played a significant role in developing communities for many years. Our principles and commitment to people helping people and mutual self-help is not only to provide access to financial services, but also to make permanent improvement in people’s lives through education, social change and economic opportunity,” said Laudick.

The first year of the Integration Initiative is known as the planning year, and includes a start-up grant of $100,000 to support the planning effort.  Additional funding is awarded based on concepts and associated resource requirements developed during the planning year.

The first Integration Initiative launched by Living Cities in 2010 invested $85 million in grants, flexible debt, and commercial debt from Living Cities and its members in five cities across the country.  

Members of Living Cities include; The Annie E. Casey Foundation, AXA Equitable, Bank of America, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi Foundation, Deutsche Bank, Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, MetLife, Inc., Morgan Stanley, Prudential Financial, Inc., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Surdna Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Wells Fargo.

Additional information about Living Cites and the Integration Initiate can be found at Living Cities.