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Friday, November 28, 2014

UNM President Robert Frank discusses University’s Economic Development Report, says UNM needs to support the creation of at least 100,000 more jobs by 2022

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UNM President Robert Frank said that at least 100,000 new jobs need to be created in New Mexico to return to prerecession employment levels, and that UNM will support that effort.

“UNM, as a University, works for the broader community to hopefully create opportunities for people like you as you graduate,” he said. “At the end of the day, New Mexico is losing jobs, and we want to increase jobs.”

According to the UNM Economic Development Report, 40,000 jobs have been slashed since the recession began in 2008, and another 50,000 are being lost due to sequestration of federal jobs. The report suggests the creation of 40,000 economic sector and 60,000 service sector jobs by 2022 so the state can have a more stable economy.

Frank said the University needs to focus on jobs in knowledge-intensive fields, such as engineering and medicine, to encourage the creation of other jobs. Doctors, for example, need nurses. He said at least eight companies are created through UNM’s Science and Technology Corporation (STC) each year, and that the nonprofit serves as a “job incubator” for the state.

“It was clear to me that the University has a responsibility for jobs … and that as a research university, we create a lot of knowledge jobs,” he said. “We have to pay attention to how we support this incubator. We need support services for our faculty and post-docs who create jobs.”

Frank said research for the report started in June when he was appointed UNM president. He said he appointed an Economic Development Advisory Group, which is composed of 16 members and chaired by Anderson School of Management Dean Doug Brown, to plan UNM’s future initiatives.

Brown said the suggestions from the report are important because of the economic obstacles the state faces.

“What make it really special are the economic pressures that we’re under in New Mexico,” he said. “We are the slowest state in the nation to be recovering from the recession. And the worst may be yet to come.”

Brown said because jobs come from companies that invest in the state, UNM should focus on encouraging the creation of new businesses. He said most new companies come from health and physical sciences.

But Frank said that although most new companies come from health and physical sciences, UNM should not neglect other businesses, such as retail stores and restaurants.

“Our end result is to create jobs, but the way to get there is to create the companies,” he said. “When you’re talking about job creation, you’re really talking about company growth.”

Brown said UNM should establish support systems for companies, such as the STC, to ensure companies stay in the state. He said companies often relocate to other states after they are created in New Mexico due to the lack of support systems in the state.

“Microsoft was started here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and for the first six years they grew here,” he said. “But they said that they ought to come back to a real city where you can find resources. That was back in the ‘80s, but I’d like to think that we’ve grown up now and we have those kinds of resources. One of my mantras is ‘don’t let one of the next Microsofts get away.’”

Frank said he will send a team of University administrators to the University of Florida at Gainesville to study the university’s business zone, which surrounds the institution. He said he plans to erect a similar business zone, which would contain dormitories and retail stores surrounding UNM, in the future.

“The idea is to start a community that grows and becomes a home for all so you won’t leave here to go to San Francisco and start your company,” he said. “We need to make this a hub for businesses.”

Frank said UNM plans to commit money for job creation in the future as part of his UNM 2020 initiative. He said that although the University has not identified a particular budget yet, it will find funds for the projects somehow.

“I don’t know how much it will be,” he said. “But we’re a 2.6 billion dollar business. We spend a lot of money, so we’ll have to find it somewhere. If we create jobs for you when you graduate, I believe it’s the right thing to do.”