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Sunday, December 21, 2014

County donates to Innovate

assistant-news@dailylobo.com
@ChloeHenson5

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners decided to pitch in $1 million to Innovate ABQ last week.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Lonnie Talbert said he proposed contributing the money because he wanted to help the people of Albuquerque take advantage of a centralized innovation center. He said he also wants to help provide opportunities for young people in the state.

“I want to give (my kids) the opportunity, along with many other young people and entrepreneurs, the chance to really stay here in New Mexico and find an opportunity for employment,” he said.

Talbert said Innovate ABQ has the potential to bring businesses and entrepreneurs in from outside of the state. The innovation district could also help the businesses in Albuquerque.

“We can continue to grow those businesses and then attract new ones from outside of the state,” he said.

Innovate ABQ is a planned live-work-play environment that would also serve as an incubator for businesses. The center would include research and commercial labs, educational programs, business services and commercial and retail businesses, according to the STC.UNM website.

Talbert and Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins both sponsored the proposal to join in on the project, according to a UNM Newsroom news release.

The four commissioners present for the decision voted unanimously to contribute the money to Innovate ABQ, Talbert said.

“People recognize that during these times we need to take some bold moves,” he said. “We need to put forward our best foot in terms of not only creating jobs, but keeping jobs here.”

Lisa Kuuttila, CEO of STC.UNM, said she had been working with all of the commissioners on this proposal for some time.

“They’ve been interested and really involved in project, I would say, for over a year now,” she said.

Kuuttila said the money will go towards constructing a building on the First Baptist Church property located at Broadway and Central.

“The funding is in place to purchase the property, so this money, this $1 million, is the start of the funding towards one of the buildings on the project, which is the incubation building,” she said.

The initial estimate for the cost of the incubation building was about $14 million, but it could now be less, Kuuttila said. She said contributions to the project could help make the space more affordable to businesses that want to locate there.

“The more we can do to help facilitate the financing of that building, the better we’ll be,” she said. “So, the county’s investment in that incubator is extremely important to the project.”

The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the UNM Board of Regents have all donated a total of about $7.2 million to the project.

“We’re working with the UNM Foundation on more private donors who may have an interest in the project,” Kuuttila said. “This is a big project. It’s going to take a lot of funds.”