University of New Mexico regents have approved putting $7.3 million worth of gas in an engine called Innovate ABQ that they and city officials hope will take the university, the city and the state on a road trip to a more vibrant tech-based economy.
Last week, regents unanimously approved buying the former First Baptist Church site in Downtown Albuquerque and retooling it into a center for high-tech research and development. It’s the first part of a $13 million plan to create a private-public “brain hub” to attract researchers, businesses and high-paying jobs. It is a major initiative of UNM President Bob Frank, with strong support from Mayor Richard Berry, who believes it can revitalize Downtown.
Innovate ABQ would seek to meld the expertise of the state’s research universities and its science and technology laboratories with researchers with new ideas and entrepreneurs, students and business people who can help turn their futuristic dreams into marketable realities.
Before regents voted, they wisely resolved some concerns over the location. Before the deal closes, the university must receive assurances from the current owners, the state Environment Department and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., that UNM will not be held liable for environmental problems related to the site.
Now that they are on board, UNM and the regents must go out of their way to report to the public on the project’s progress, how the money is being spent and what results from the investment in a transparent way. The money that made the purchase possible came largely from private donations, along with public sources like city bond money and a federal grant. The UNM Foundation also will provide $800,000 to cover the rest of the purchase price plus initial site planning costs.
Innovate ABQ has great potential. As it goes forward, accountability is what taxpayers need from publicly funded government bodies to retain trust in their judgment to make the right decisions for the benefit of all.
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.