ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Valencia County business development program is breaking ground later this year, and economic development experts are optimistic it will keep more money and living-wage jobs in the community.
With help from a $40,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, a new business incubator at 22 El Cerro Loop in Los Lunas is slated to open by the end of the year.
Ralph Mims, economic development manager for the Village of Los Lunas, said he sees the program as a way to give talented entrepreneurs what they need to succeed in Los Lunas, rather than forcing them to seek those resources out in a larger city.
“A lot of these startups need financial help, they need guidance, they need a lot of things,” Mims said. “The business incubator will be a good tool to keep them in Valencia County.”
Business incubators, programs designed to help startup companies develop by offering resources ranging from office space to one-on-one training, are common in New Mexico’s larger cities, but remain relatively rare in rural parts of the state.
Russell Combs, a consultant on the project, said he believes that the incubator can create between 35 and 50 jobs in Valencia County in its first year of operation.
“Fifty new jobs – solid, good-paying jobs in Valencia County – is gigantic,” Combs said.
Prior to receiving the grant funding, Mims reached out to Combs to put a study determining what industries would be the best fit for the industry. To Combs’ surprise, the study revealed that there was unmet demand for a business incubator that helped food production companies grow.
“We started finding … how many people were doing food products, more or less as a hobby,” Combs said.
In the short term, the business incubator will be home to companies from all sectors. However, Combs said the long-term plan is to move into a larger space a year or two later, and add commercial kitchen equipment to help companies looking to develop their food production businesses.
The larger incubator will be split evenly between food product companies and other industries, Combs said.
Companies looking to participate in the program must go through a 30- to 45-day intake process, where the leadership team answers questions about its business model and funding structure. Combs said the program is designed to encourage businesses to self-select.
From there, businesses receive technical assistance in a classroom setting and in one-on-one meetings with mentors. Combs said participants will learn to maintain and eventually scale up their businesses.
“The idea is always pushing the company to be better and to meet higher goals,” Combs said.
He added that the program will take two to three years for most companies to complete.
While Combs acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down development, he said he hopes the incubator will be open by early December.