ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Technology innovation and startup development in New Mexico could get a significant boost from a new Emerging Technologies Office in Downtown Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Gas Co.’s parent firm, Emera Inc., is opening the office at Central New Mexico Community College’s FUSE makerspace at the Innovate ABQ high-tech development district at Broadway and Central. The office will support emerging energy-related technologies and other promising innovation to help bring creative ideas to market, said Rob Bennett, president of Emera Technologies Inc., a new subsidiary based in Florida.
“As we identify new technologies, we’ll look at how it fits into Emera’s business market and goals,” Bennett said. “We could then either invest in it, or sponsor its development to assist the local community.”
Emera launched the subsidiary this year to deploy more cutting-edge technology in its energy operations, which include electric generation, transmission and distribution facilities in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. The firm acquired New Mexico Gas in July 2016 after merging with TECO Energy, the gas company’s former owner, in a $6.5 billion deal.
The new office in Albuquerque marks the company’s first targeted effort to promote technology development in local markets where Emera operates, Bennett said. It chose New Mexico because of its vibrant startup economy and a collaborative spirit among local investors, businesspeople and economic development professionals, Bennett said.
“There’s a lot happening here with new technology commercialization, and we want to be a part of it,” Bennett said. “If things work out well here, we’d like to do more of these initiatives in other jurisdictions.”
The company hired Gary Oppedahl, Albuquerque’s former economic development director, to head the new office. Oppedahl, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded and led a number of startup companies, can help connect the Emera office with the local community, sniffing out promising technology and directing the company’s support efforts.
Oppedahl said it’s a great fit for him, given Emera’s “forward-thinking” reputation.
“It’s my next calling to work with a company that’s out in front with a vision that aligns with mine,” Oppedahl said. “We’ll look for energy technology and other innovative things that can contribute to economic development here and move the community forward.”
Emera is already closely connected to New Mexico’s startup community through a $5 million fund that provides grants to organizations around the state. To date, it’s provided $2.5 million to nearly three dozen groups, including large donations to support technology commercialization at the state’s three research universities.