The University of New Mexico and San Juan College in Farmington won five-year federal grants of $560,000 each in September to expand their entrepreneurship programs.
Both New Mexico institutions are among 58 colleges and universities selected by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support economic transformation in local and regional economies. EDA’s University Center Grant program awarded the funding to extend university resources in marginalized areas plagued by high unemployment and low income.
UNM will use its money to expand entrepreneurial innovation initiatives to branch campuses around the state. San Juan will assist local farmers and value-added food businesses to grow existing operations and launch new ones.
UNM’s Science and Technology Corp., which manages tech transfer and commercialization programs, will work with UNM’s Innovation Academy to bring educational and technical resources to rural areas. UNM programs are currently concentrated at the Lobo Rainforest building at the Innovate ABQ high-tech development zone in Downtown Albuquerque.
“This grant will allow us take everything we’re doing in Albuquerque and promote it statewide,” said STC President and CEO Lisa Kuuttila. “We’ll help all branch campuses to develop entrepreneurial programs that fit their individual needs.”
That includes UNM sites in Rio Rancho, Taos, Los Alamos, Valencia and Gallup.
University experts and mentors will offer training and resources for aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs through onsite instruction, distance learning and teleconferencing. A new Entrepreneurial Capabilities certificate will be available for students and community members at branch campuses.
Seminars and a for-credit course will teach everything from starting a business and intellectual property to business pitches, lean startup strategy and customer discovery.
Innovation Academy Executive Director Rob DelCampo called it a “natural extension” of the work now underway at the Academy in Albuquerque, which currently has 874 students and 36 student-run businesses.
“Different areas have different needs, so we’ll customize our programs,” DelCampo said. “That may mean emphasizing Main Street-type businesses in Gallup, or an arts focus in Taos. We’ll encourage e-commerce in everything as a tool to build startups.”
San Juan will focus on building a regional “food hub” in the Four Corners area with training for new and existing growers, value-added businesses, and people working in culinary arts, said Director of Workforce Development Lorenzo Reyes. The college will help establish a commercial kitchen and a centralized marketplace.
“There are many small businesses and farms here who sell at local farmers markets, so we want to get them all in one central location and expand their sales across New Mexico and in surrounding states,” Reyes said. “It’s part of an organic effort underway for several years to diversify the local economy. Food production is a strength in this area, so we’re leveraging those assets.”