UNM Rainforest Innovations

3-year EDA Funded Grant looks to bridge gaps and seek solutions to Tribal Entrepreneurship

(April 4, 2022 – Albuquerque, NM)UNM Rainforest Innovations, the University of New Mexico’s technology transfer and economic development organization, has been awarded an $800,000 American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help break down barriers and generate opportunity through entrepreneurship in historically underserved communities in New Mexico with a primary focus on coal-impacted tribal communities.

“This funding will help us develop strategies to better serve tribal entrepreneurs through mentoring and programs to support resilient businesses”, said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer of UNM Rainforest Innovations. “With EDA Funding the grant for three-years, we plan to hire a Program Manager and Tribal Liaisons to identify gaps and barriers for entrepreneurship and to foster engagement within the communities. We also plan to form an advisory board made up of strategic partners and statewide organizations to support the success of the project.”

One of the overarching goals of the project is to mitigate the barriers that impact tribal entrepreneurs, and notably coal-impacted communities, from starting and growing resilient businesses. Some of the ways UNM Rainforest Innovations aims to do this is by providing mentoring and entrepreneurial training opportunities, link resources available in urban parts of the state to rural communities and engage statewide partners to create further connection points within the vast entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Mexico.

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law by President Joseph Biden on March 11, 2021 and was designed to support the health and economic wellbeing of Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the act, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities across the nation in their efforts to accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build local economies. Projects eligible for funding under the Economic Adjustment Assistance program includes a wide range of technical, planning, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and public works and infrastructure projects.

To read the EDA press release go to: https://eda.gov/news/press-releases/2022/03/31/albuquerque-nm.htm

See Kevin Robinson Avila’s April 4 article, “Feds help UNM extend startup outreach to tribes,” on the Albuquerque Journal Website here: https://www.abqjournal.com/2485674/feds-help-unm-extend-startup-outreach-to-tribes.html and reposted below.

Feds help UNM extend startup outreach to tribes

By Kevin Robinson Avila
Published Monday, April 4
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A new $800,000 federal grant will help the University of New Mexico’s Rainforest Innovations extend a helping hand to aspiring Native American entrepreneurs across the state.

The grant, announced last week by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, will allow Rainforest Innovations to begin bridging the gap between existing startup support programs and tribal communities, said Lisa Kuuttila, UNM Chief Economic Development Officer and CEO of Rainforest Innovations, which manages the university’s tech-transfer and entrepreneurship programs.

UNM and many other agencies, organizations and institutions already offer statewide training and assistance through online and in-person programs. Some groups specifically focus on helping Native American entrepreneurs create successful businesses, such as New Mexico Community Capital.

But more is needed to build tribal awareness about available assistance and directly connect them with resources, Kuuttila said.

“We want to reach out to Native American communities in new ways to identify people who either already started businesses or who want to and don’t know where to go for support,” Kuuttila told the Journal. “There are lots of resources across the state, but in rural areas, many may not be aware of them, so we want to bring more of those aspiring entrepreneurs into the existing ecosystem.”

To do that, UNM will hire community “liaisons” to work directly with the tribes.

“They’ll work remotely and travel around the state to work directly with people on the pueblos and the Navajo Nation,” Kuuttila said. “… They’ll do onsite visits and meetings, some by Zoom and some in person. We expect each community or region will have different needs, so we’ll tailor programming specifically to the places we work in.”

UNM will add $200,000 in matching funds to the EDA grant, which was awarded under the American Rescue Plan to help local communities recover from the pandemic, said Commerce Department Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo.

“This EDA investment will support UNM Rainforest as it expands its training, mentoring, and strategy development programs to create new opportunities for tribal entrepreneurs and build a diverse and robust regional economy,” Castillo said in a prepared statement.




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