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Albuquerque evolving into a ‘3.0 city’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson introduced hundreds of real estate industry people to a concept he called Cities 3.0 on Monday during a joint appearance with Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry at NAIOP’s regular lunch meeting.

Albuquerque had a short life as a 1.0 city, and it never became a 2.0 city. But it has been evolving into a 3.0 city since the day Robert Oppenheimer began building his lab on a mesa west of Santa Fe. Thanks to Johnson, we now know what to call what we’ve been doing.

Johnson introduced his ideas in 2014 at his inauguration as president of the United States Conference of Mayors. He said then that the first cities – Cities 1.0 – were built around ports, navigable rivers and transportation routes and served as centers of trade.

Like Socorro, Algodones and a number of other villages, Albuquerque was just one of several outposts along the Rio Grande designed to protect and serve excursions between El Paso and Santa Fe. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that Albuquerque began to develop as a city, thanks to the arrival of the railroad and the opportunity to trade with the rest of the country.

Cities 2.0, Johnson said, “had factories and big industry smokestacks” and became destinations for immigration. Albuquerque was too short of water and too far from markets to develop a significant manufacturing sector that produced exports, and its local market was too small to support much industrialization. The Industrial Revolution passed us by.

In the new era of Cities 3.0, Johnson said, “The city is a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.”

Sound like anyone you know? Almost. Albuquerque is home to some of the brightest materials scientists, computer scientists, energy scientists and medical scientists in the country. Astonishing technological breakthroughs are the norm in our city.

What has been missing is entrepreneurship, which I contend is the worst legacy of our dependence on federal government spending. Satisfying a government contract encourages compliance and rule-following. Entrepreneurship requires defiance and rule-breaking.

Fortunately, Burqueños from city officials to our educators to the folks running business incubators to our business community in general are aware of the problem and motivated to find a solution.

Even better, the sector of our economy that has depended on federal spending is facing the choice of adapting to a world of declining budgets or disappearing altogether. This will lead to tough survivors who learn how to innovate and compete for private-sector business.

Johnson described the role of city government in Cities 3.0, and some of what he described had a familiar ring.

A 3.0 city has to find new ways to deliver services, Johnson said, just as Apple delivers music without operating a music store and Amazon delivers books without operating a bookstore. City road repair crews used to roam the city looking for potholes to fill, which meant some especially egregious potholes could chew up car tires for months before being discovered.

Today, a citizen can use a smartphone to take a photo of the pothole and send it to the road crew. The phone’s GPS system locates the pothole exactly. In Albuquerque, this service is delivered by the city’s 311 app. You can download it from the cabq.gov website.

Police officers used to cruise around the city hoping to stumble onto crime and responding to service calls. These days, the Albuquerque Police Department collects mountains of data to run through computers so analysts can tell officers where, when and how certain crimes are likely to occur. Cops can get there before the bad guys leave.

Cities 3.0 have to build the right infrastructure to support the innovative and entrepreneurial, Johnson said. This includes good transportation, high-speed Internet connections, citywide Wi-Fi, and stimulating urban environments. Albuquerque has installed a good Internet backbone in parts of the city.

Though many citizens oppose it, if the new Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus system works, it will connect city centers, each with a unique identity, and produce the kind of streetscapes that stimulate commerce and civic life. If the city’s Innovation District works, entrepreneurs will find the ideas, support and financing they need in the center of town.

Johnson is trying to build on Sacramento’s assets. We can do the same. We know how to manage scarce water supplies, knowledge that can find an export market internationally. The government put its solar energy evaluation center at Sandia National Laboratories. The University of New Mexico Cancer Center knows more about the genetics of certain cancers than anyone else in the world.

It took abundant water, access to markets and lots of capital to create a 2.0 city. It takes only will and imagination to be a 3.0 city. This should be Albuquerque’s era.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Winthrop Quigley at 823-3896 or wquigley@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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