Philanthropy is usually associated with things like the arts, education and the environment, but the field of charitable giving has been broadened to include economic development by the Albuquerque Community Foundation.
“If we create jobs in this community, it will solve every other problem we have,” prominent local businessman and foundation trustee Steve Maestas told the Albuquerque Economic Forum on Wednesday. “It’s really about economic mobility and jobs.”
In a joint presentation with foundation President and CEO Randy Royster, Maestas said a weak economy was Albuquerque’s biggest challenge and that without a grassroots effort, “Our future will be indistinguishable from chance.”
Economic and workforce development is a new area of emphasis for the Community Foundation, which has for decades provided financial support to a broad spectrum of nonprofits that promote “community well-being.” In 2014, the foundation distributed more than $3 million in grants.
“We are not taking a pie and reducing the slices to use resources for economic and workforce development,” Royster told the meeting. “We’re baking a whole new pie.”
The foundation’s charitable giving is made through endowment funds, most of which are purpose driven. A separate new fund has been set up for supporting economic and workforce development initiatives.
One of the first initiatives is financial support of the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship, which was announced earlier this year by Mayor Richard Berry but is an ongoing fund not tied to a given city administration. The foundation has a lead role in the Mayor’s Prize.
Twenty-seven nonprofit entities have applied for two annual grants of at least $200,000 each, Royster said. The finalists will be announced next week and the winners late in November.
A more long-range initiative is a collaborative effort to promote and expand the city’s biotech and health care sector as part of a broader effort to revitalize Downtown, he said. This long-range initiative is modeled after a 10-year effort in Cleveland to revitalize it general urban core.
CEO of Maestas Development Group and board chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Maestas advocated an economic and workforce development strategy that addressed the root causes of joblessness and social disadvantage, rather than the adverse effects.
Empowering people is the key, he said, adding, “We’ve got to get out of this business of assisting people.”