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Editorial: Aperture a smart jump start to Innovate ABQ

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Consider it an investment not only in the University of New Mexico’s future, but in the futures of Albuquerque and New Mexico as well.

That’s the best way to look at a proposed $4.5 million acquisition of the Aperture Center at Mesa del Sol. Acquiring the $14 million, three-story building would provide UNM a two-year jump-start on its Innovate ABQ project slated for Downtown.

And a two-year jump start on creating public-private high-tech research and business development hubs in the metro area.

The Downtown project recently got a $3 million infusion from the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union. When combined with $2 million in city bond funding and a pending $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the donation puts UNM in good stead to cover the $6.6 million appraised value of the First Baptist Church site at Central and Broadway SE.

Yet even a streamlined, best-case scenario has Innovate ABQ two years down the road.

UNM President Bob Frank explains rather than wait, “we can stage the project’s growth by immediately taking on the Aperture Center and making it profitable pretty quickly without taking away from what we do Downtown. We see development of both locations as interlocking steps that complement one another. They’re both part of our goal to build in Albuquerque a mecca for innovation and creativity that offers more opportunities for technology-based economic growth.”

More specifically, it’s all about bringing investors and entrepreneurs to the new technologies being developed here, about investing in those promising ideas and ensuring they get to market. Aperture already houses UNM and Sandia National Laboratories research staff. Expanding that partnership would capitalize on the potential synergy of a research university, a national lab, and all the innovative, creative, educated minds those organizations draw as well as all the jobs their work can create.

New Mexico desperately needs to foster an economic driver beyond government employment and government services, and while the credit union investment is a vital piece of the private side of this tech-transfer venture, so is a solid base of public support if more private investments are to come.

And that makes the bricks and mortar that will house the Aperture and Innovate ABQ enterprises a sound investment in the local economy’s future.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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