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Editorial: Innovation’s knocking on ABQ’s Downtown door

A Downtown Albuquerque hub of innovation and entrepreneurship has taken a big step forward.

On Friday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents voted to buy the old First Baptist Church, a seven-acre site at Broadway and Central, for UNM’s Innovate ABQ. The project is a high-tech research and development zone to lure technology-based economic growth. It has the support of the city of Albuquerque, which has been working with UNM to develop it.

UNM President Bob Frank was delighted: “I look forward to working with our faculty, Mayor (Richard) Berry, and our other partners as we take another step toward building the academic and entrepreneurial programs that will allow Innovate ABQ to serve our community.”

The $6.65 million sales price will be covered by three sources – $3 million from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, $2 million in city bond money and $1.5 million from the U.S. Commerce Department. Once the deal is closed, UNM will start creating a master plan with $800,000 that regents approved from the UNM Foundation.

Meanwhile, the city is working on an innovative project of its own for Downtown – a “venture accelerator” that would train entrepreneurs with great ideas and would invest in their companies to take those ideas to market. Up to $2.2 million could be awarded to the first 10 startups to participate in ABQid Inc., a nonprofit that launched earlier this year.

According to ABQid Chairman Bill Bice, each startup gets a $20,000 stipend to develop their product. ABQid will provide mentoring and technical assistance. Innovators who graduate from the program will receive between $50,000 and $200,000 in investments based on their potential and what “the individual startup requires to get initial traction in the market,” Bice said.

The city is putting up a $1.9 million grant to help manage the project initially. However, the investments in the companies will come from private funding being channeled through ABQid.

These efforts are a credit to the foresight of university and city leadership. The promise is that it should pay off in a more vibrant and exciting technology community in the heart of Albuquerque.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.