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Emera lays out $1M in NM innovation grants

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Emera Inc., the New Mexico Gas Co.’s parent firm, announced another $1 million in grants this week for entrepreneurial innovation and economic development statewide.

The company awarded nearly $1.5 million to 18 organizations last year from a $5 million fund it established to offer grants around New Mexico over a five-year period.

This year’s funding will benefit 28 organizations, including some groups that received money last year, and many new ones.

“We’re trying to spread the money around a little more this year,” said NM Gas Vice President of External Affairs Tom Domme. “We’re giving grants to a wider variety of groups.”

Awardees include organizations that support entrepreneurial innovation and startups, plus groups focused on economic development.

“We particularly want to support entrepreneurship through accelerators, incubators and innovation programs,” Domme said. “We believe those things can have a long-term impact on the state by creating jobs and businesses.”

About $450,000 will support technology transfer and entrepreneurship this year at the state’s three research universities and at Innovate ABQ in Downtown Albuquerque. That includes:

— A $150,000 follow-on grant for New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, which received $200,000 last year.

— A $100,000 follow-on grant for Innovate ABQ, which received $500,000 last year.

— A $50,000 follow-on grant for the University of New Mexico’s Innovation Academy, which got $200,000 last year.

— A new $50,000 grant for a study on UNM’s economic impact in New Mexico.

— A first-time $100,000 grant for tech transfer and entrepreneurship at New Mexico Tech.

The Santa Fe Business Incubator, the Bioscience Center in Uptown, and WESST Downtown will receive a total of $110,00. About $45,000 will go to the Creative Startups and ABQid business accelerators.

Another $400,000 awarded this year will finance small grants of up to $50,000 for economic development programs statewide.

Domme said last year’s funding had a significant impact.

“We left it up to awardees to spend the money as they deemed appropriate,” he said. “We’re very pleased with what they did with those funds.”

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center used the money to launch five new business accelerators this year to help entrepreneurs build startups to market agricultural, high-tech, health and export-oriented products and services. Nearly three dozen businesses have benefitted to date, said Arrowhead Director Kathryn Hansen.

“We built a new family of startup programs that didn’t exist before,” Hansen said. “We’ve gotten such a positive response from recipients that we’ve decided to use the new grant this year to continue building these programs.”

Innovate ABQ used last year’s $500,000 grant to help build Central New Mexico Community College’s new FUSE Makerspace Downtown.

And UNM’s Innovation Academy used its $200,000 grant last year to build a center for entrepreneurship, with some 500 students now enrolled, said UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila.

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