In an article in the Albuquerque Journal, “Economist says state misses key to growth,” Jeffrey Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research (BBER) at the University of New Mexico, was quoted, “Perhaps we’re in a situation now where we can’t look outside ourselves for an excuse or a savior.” And we couldn’t agree more; our economy is at a turning point, and we can only count on ourselves to build a more prosperous city.
While there has been growth in Albuquerque’s economy – this month we are on our 48th consecutive month of job growth – families in Albuquerque are still faced with high rates of poverty, high unemployment and racial inequities that are crippling to our city’s social and economic future. While these tough, persistent problems can be daunting, surmounting them isn’t impossible – or even far-fetched. And that is because Albuquerque and its economy have been changing course, albeit slowly, over the last nearly four years. Since 2014, key institutions have been convening through City Alive and have committed to City Alive’s shared goal of creating 10,000 new, living-wage jobs in Albuquerque by 2025 through innovation and entrepreneurship. These include the City of Albuquerque, Nusenda Credit Union, UNM, the Albuquerque Community Foundation, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, The BioScience Center and FatPipe ABQ, CNM, Mission: Graduate, Partnership for Community Action, the South Valley Economic Development Center, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and many more. This lofty but achievable goal is backed up by comprehensive strategies, deepening partnerships and connections across our community that are changing systems and building resources to better support businesses at key stages of growth – from starting up, to staying up, to scaling up.
One of Mitchell’s key observations is that supporting existing firms as they move from small companies with a handful of employees to medium and even large businesses is crucial to fully recovering from the Great Recession. It is an area where Albuquerque needs growth. This transition from microenterprises, main street businesses and startups to second-stage companies is one of City Alive’s areas of focus.
Once businesses reach second stage, they are established, have consistent revenue, a market-tested product or service and the potential to scale. These businesses have incredible potential to create jobs, increase economic mobility and build wealth in our community. Efforts aligned with City Alive to support the growth of second-stage companies include: the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship, which has provided over $600,000 in funding for entrepreneurial support organizations that assist companies as they enter a next phase, and the Tech Navigator program, which is supporting both scientists and entrepreneurs as they navigate funding, patenting and business growth to transfer and commercialize technology.
City Alive is the opportunity for institutions to set a course to address our toughest economic challenges. Every month, City Alive’s leadership partners, who represent 16 of our community’s key players in the business and entrepreneurship ecosystem, meet to plan, implement and track key systems change to further the success of our city’s entrepreneurs. Through these coordinated shifts in education, financial, business, government and nonprofit institutions, City Alive is contributing to an ecosystem in Albuquerque that supports entrepreneurs at all stages of their growth.
The change in our economy and business ecosystem has to be pervasive, extending across organizations and institutions so the economic system moves, degree by degree, creating more opportunity, income, wealth and jobs that reach every household. And what is of paramount importance to all the partners at City Alive is that all this change happens with a focus on racial and income equity, so we, a community as a whole, can prosper.