ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A pair of grants will fund city projects to help rebuild Albuquerque’s workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce will establish a federal Minority Business Development Center in Albuquerque. The center, which will be based at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce beginning in December, will host workshops and provide business training for minority-owned businesses.
A separate $450,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will support efforts by the city to better coordinate existing workforce development offerings, and help connect unemployed and underemployed New Mexicans to growing job sectors.
While both planning efforts were underway before the COVID-19 pandemic began, they’ve taken on a greater importance after the pandemic has caused unemployment to spike, particularly in minority communities in New Mexico and across the country, according to Mark Zientek, Albuquerque’s workforce development liaison. According to a study from the University of New Hampshire published in August, job loss in Black and Latino communities was more than 50% higher than job loss in white communities from February to June.
“We want to target the population that has been hit hardest by this recession,” Zientek said.
Gabriela Marques, director of Albuquerque’s Minority Business Development Center, said the center will be open to businesses owned and operated by African Americans, Asian Americans, Hasidic Jews, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. The center will focus on helping businesses in sectors the city has designated as a priority, including aerospace, bioscience and film. The goal, Marques said, is to help existing minority-owned businesses grow while helping to develop a critical mass that attracts other businesses to the region.