Mayor Richard Berry says Albuquerque’s new director of economic development is a “serial entrepreneur.”
Berry announced the appointment of Gary Oppedahl on Thursday during a news conference at Emcore, one of the startups Oppedahl helped foster based on research conducted at Sandia National Laboratories.
“Gary comes to this position as an entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur,” he said. “He is a startup success story.”
Berry said Oppedahl’s experience building companies based on scientific research will help tackle a key opportunity for growth in Albuquerque: The city is home to plenty of research but commercializes relatively little of it compared to other places.
Oppedahl said he’s optimistic about the city’s future. He has experience in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, but he made a point of saying Albuquerque is his home.
“I believe we have all the parts and pieces” to succeed, he said. “The need is just to connect the dots. We intend to do that.”
He will make about $100,000 as the city’s economic development chief, according to the mayor’s office.
Oppedahl succeeds John Garcia, who spent four years in the Berry administration. Garcia is taking a job as executive vice president of the HBA, a homebuilders group.
Berry also announced Thursday that Deirdre Firth, a manager in the city’s Economic Development Department, will be promoted to deputy director. Firth is a key figure in the vetting of economic-development deals and the formulation of “clawbacks” to recover incentives if promises aren’t kept.
Berry, a Republican, won re-election last month. His new four-year term starts Dec. 1.
The mayor said the commercialization of research happening at local laboratories and universities will be a priority for the city. Berry said Oppedahl, having already started several companies, has the background to help.
“Gary has a problem: He’s a serial entrepreneur,” he said.