The Executive's Desk: New Mexico needs a consumer packaging incubator - Albuquerque Journal

The Executive’s Desk: New Mexico needs a consumer packaging incubator

Paul Silverman

New Mexico is booming. Companies are moving here. People are moving here.

What’s next is building our private sector economy. As New Mexico’s population has grown, transportation systems have made us less remote, and the advent of high-speed communications has flattened the world and made most of New Mexico competitive with the rest of the world. There are even a few aspects that work in our favor, such as low outgoing freight rates due to an imbalance of goods coming in versus goods leaving. But the biggest impact is the influence of science and technology.

Modern New Mexico has created a dichotomy of jobs with lots of high-paying tech jobs and too many low-wage jobs, with not much in between. Within this is a silver lining of which we have not taken advantage. We have:

• A lot of agricultural land currently growing alfalfa that could be converted to high-value crops. Think how Bueno Foods took chiles from the fields and put them into the freezer in homes, and Gruet Wines took grapes and made champagne, which they sell throughout the world. There are other crops such as pecans, apples and hemp for starters that are begging to be made into high-value products and sold to millions of households.

• A large number of entrepreneurs are creating new products that require packaging in the areas of body care and food products that, if the vertical infrastructure structure was more dynamic, could create two new major industries employing thousands of people. This silver lining is consumer goods created, grown, processed and packaged in New Mexico and sold outside the state.

According to Scott Bryant of the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership, there are 2,000–3,000 companies in New Mexico whose growth has been stunted by lack of in-state capacity to cost effectively produce and cleanly package small runs of their product, to flex between packaging containers to meet distributor demands, and/or to meet packaging requirements that would allow them to sell into new markets.

In larger cities there are contract manufacturers called co-packers that serve these small-medium production runs at premium pricing, usually at a much more expensive rate than what our small companies can afford. We have no co-packers, only informal arrangements and imperfect solutions for these low volume, high-mix entrepreneurs trying to move beyond limited online sales and holiday craft trade shows.

The answer is a consumer packaging incubator that would support emerging small companies, growers and creative entrepreneurs producing food, body care and other packaged products. Within the manufacturing infrastructure that exists in the state, we can create value-added industries employing thousands of people.

The incubator would bring together the infrastructure that already exists and add resources for what’s missing. Some of the existing assets include nonprofits like Adelante with packaging and fulfillment experience and real estate available; NM MEP advising on manufacturing setup and manufacturing entrepreneurship; Central New Mexico Community College, which runs boot camps for start-up entrepreneurs; New Mexico Trade Alliance for advising on selling internationally; Rocky Mountain Registration Office of the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office; New Mexico Small Business Development Corp. for business operations, and New Mexico Angels for seed financing for start-ups.

The missing piece is the coordinated and accessible infrastructure necessary to create and package small lots, allowing the creators to get enough product to market to become successful.

We have all the necessary talent available to create this incubator as well as strong demand for it, supporting creators who already have product ready for production and most will also have some level of existing business.

It is often said that New Mexico needs to become more business-friendly to succeed.

The consumer packaging incubator will directly address a major need of innovators and entrepreneurs and support their rapid growth. As business leaders, let’s get together and support another growth segment.

Paul Silverman has been an investor with NM Angels for 12 years and is the CEO of Bee Clean, an Albuquerque-based hand sanitizer manufacturing company established in January 2020 and now being distributed in all 50 states, with distribution to Taiwan and Dominican Republic coming soon. The executive’s desk is a guest column providing advice, commentary or information about resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for consideration, email gporter@abqjournal.com.

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