NM vying for $ 200 million for space and tech industries

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New Mexico’s space and creative tech industries could benefit from a $ 200 million boost from the United States Economic Development Administration.Regional challenge Build back better. “

EDA has shortlisted grant proposals from two community coalitions – one led by the Central New Mexico Community College and the other by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce – as finalists for up to $ 100 million. dollars each.

If awarded, the money will significantly stimulate the growth of local industry in the space and creative sectors with new facilities and programs to support business and workforce development. work in the Mid-Rio Grande corridor.

The two proposals, submitted separately by each local coalition, are among the 60 finalists out of 529 grant applications made by groups nationwide. The CNM-led coalitions and the Hispano chamber will now receive $ 500,000 each to turn their initial proposals into much more detailed plans to be submitted to the EDA in March.

The EDA – a federal agency run by the US Department of Commerce – will then select between 20 and 30 coalition proposals for grant award, up to a maximum of $ 100 million for each winning coalition.

The grant money comes from $ 3 billion allocated to the EDA earlier this year as stimulus funding as part of the US bailout to help states and local communities recover from the pandemic coronavirus. EDA has allocated $ 1 billion of this amount to its Build Back Better challenge aimed at developing and strengthening regional industrial clusters across the country.

Space industry hub

The CNM-led Space Valley Coalition – which includes the New Space NM industrial alliance, the NM Trade Alliance and the NM Spaceport Authority – proposes to build a large “Space Valley Center” in Albuquerque which would serve as a central location for the development of the space industry in New Mexico. The new facility would include a large auditorium that can accommodate up to 750 people, breakout rooms that can accommodate up to 150 people, offices and laboratories for space companies.

It would become New Mexico’s premier gathering and co-working place for the space industry, said TJ Cook of CNM Ingenuity, which manages all of CNM’s business programs.

Today’s myriad of space-related businesses and organizations come together for meetings, conferences, networks and collaborations. Space-based business accelerator and incubator programs would expand their current programs, services and resources there. And the CNM and partner organizations would set up some space-related education and training programs for the workforce.

The vision and mission of the center would be similar to that of the Rainforest Innovations building in the Innovate ABQ Downtown development area, where public, private and academic organizations and individuals come together to advance entrepreneurship, technological innovation and startups, Cook said.

“The Space Valley Center would bring the community together in a central location like Rainforest Innovations, but the glue here would be the space industry and economy,” Cook told the Journal.

It could also propel New Mexico’s space industry to national prominence, attracting space conferences large and small to Albuquerque, inspiring space companies and entrepreneurs to establish business operations there, and by providing government agencies and professionals with a venue specially designed for the space. and development, said Randy Trask, president of the NM Trade Alliance. The centre’s facilities would be built to Sensitive Compartment Information Facilities, or SCIF, standards, allowing U.S. defense entities, other government agencies, and licensed businesses to host classified meetings and conferences there.

This would make the center one of the only large SCIF-compliant facilities in the country not located on a US military base.

“Currently these types of facilities are in high demand, as most are on military bases, and those that are not too small and are often located in hard to reach places,” Trask told the Journal. “The center would make us one of the top two facilities in the country for this kind of large, classified meeting.”

In addition to the space center, the coalition’s proposal is also seeking funding for the construction of a multi-purpose building with rooms, laboratories, racks and storage spaces in Spaceport America’s vertical launch pad in the southern New. -Mexico, said Kyle Lee, CEO of CNM Ingenuity. It would be equipped to facilitate rocket assembly and preparation, payload integration and processing, and mission control.

Funding would also be funneled into new space-related workforce development programs and to help set up a new space-focused venture capital fund of up to $ 25 million to invest. in up to 30 New Mexico companies over 10 years. This would include a “business studio” to provide a business development service to these businesses.

If the coalition got the full $ 100 million EDA grant to fund all proposed projects, the Council of Intermediate Region Governments estimates that it would create $ 540 million in economic growth over 10 years, generating at least 1 000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs.

Creative technological hub

The Hispano chamber-led coalition is a network of financial institutions, colleges, nonprofits, and city governments, each working to make central and northern New Mexico a leader in creative technologies ranging from animation to artificial intelligence.

If the coalition, known as “Create New Mexico,” receives funding from the EDA, it will fund eight coordinated projects in the creative technology sector, each led by a different organization.

The proposed projects range from an effort by the city of Santa Fe to establish a mixed-use manufacturing and entrepreneurship center in the city, to a proposal by the nonprofit Stagecoach Foundation to host boot camps. focused on creative technology within the film and television industry.

Hispano House Grants Development Director Ryan Chavez said bringing disparate organizations together will help boost opportunities for collaboration between creative sectors that often remain trapped in their own silos.

“It’s really an effort to bring everyone together and be on the same page, so that we can build a sustainable cluster,” Chavez told the Journal.

The coalition has adopted a broad definition of what constitutes creative technology. This includes AI, animation, video games, and 3D modeling and printing, among other jobs that require both creative skills and technological know-how.

“You need more of a left brain and right brain combination for this kind of creative technology,” she said.

Chavez said New Mexico, particularly in the Mid-Rio Grande and North Central regions, is well positioned to capitalize on the sector.

The coalition said the two regions have a higher concentration of jobs than the national average. But there are some barriers to growth, such as poor internet access, which contributes to an urban-rural divide.

“We have infrastructure and broadband issues that make it more difficult for rural and sometimes Native American communities to access the Internet, which is a big part of creative technology,” Chavez said.

Another challenge is the shortage of venture capital funds, although organizations like Santa Fe-based Creative Startups and the Albuquerque-based DreamSpring microcredit institution will work to close this gap within the industry as part of the House proposal.

Metta Smith of DreamSpring said the organization will provide virtual and in-person technical assistance to entrepreneurs on lines of credit, financial literacy and other topics.

“A lot of our clients, especially if they’re startups, have never taken out a business loan before,” Smith said.

Additionally, a new seed fund will support creative technology entrepreneurs, providing at least 25 loans by the end of 2022. Smith said 80% of loan recipients would be women or ethnic minorities. .

“After the pandemic, it’s the businesses that have had to show incredible resilience,” Smith said.

Chavez said the coalition will use its $ 500,000 EDA grant to build an even larger network of partners for the more detailed proposal now expected in March.

(Source: United States Economic Development Association)
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