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A Closer Look – Gary Tonjes

Gary TonjesGary Tonjes
Member, Board of Directors, STC.UNM
President, Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc.

The mission of STC is to nurture university technology commercialization and economic development for the UNM and New Mexico communities. One of the ways we do this is by creating new companies. Working with local economic development partners is critical to fulfilling that mission. So, we are very lucky to have Gary Tonjes on the STC Board of Directors. As president of Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc. (AED), the premiere recruiter of business in the Albuquerque metro area, Mr. Tonjes brings many years of experience and expertise to the table.

Mr. Tonjes joined Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc. (AED) as president in 1994. He has also worked for the Roswell, New Mexico Chamber of Commerce (1979-81), the Odessa, Texas Chamber of Commerce (1981-84), and was president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce in Joplin, Missouri, for ten years.

AED is a private, non-profit membership organization funded principally by leading members of the business community. AED’s mission is to vigorously recruit business and industry, help local companies grow, and generate quality job opportunities in the Albuquerque metro area. Since 1960, AED has served as Albuquerque’s lead organization for the recruitment of 236 new companies and more than 35,000 jobs to the metropolitan area. AED has contributed to the recruitment of companies such as Lowe’s, Intel Corporation, General Mills, Fraunhofer, Hewlett-Packard, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Fidelity Investments, Gap Inc. Shared Service Center, Goodrich Aerospace, Verizon Wireless, PR Newswire, Rural Sourcing, Inc., Alorica, Flagship Foods, and National American University. The organization has also assisted existing companies in the area to expand, such as Skorpios Technologies, Lavu, and RiskSense.

Mr. Tonjes’ numerous awards and honors include the 2015 Mary Jo Hanover Award from the Industrial Asset Management Council, a 2014 New Mexico Ethics in Business Award, and the 2013 President’s Award from The Site Selectors Guild. Under Mr. Tonjes’ leadership, AED was ranked one of North America’s Top Ten Economic Development Organizations in 2000 and was Honorable Mention for the same award in 2006. He has also received special recognition from the Missouri legislature for his economic development leadership in that state. A graduate of Eastern New Mexico University, he was honored with the ENMU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award for 2001.

He is past chairman of the Institute for the Organization Management Program of the United States Chamber of Commerce at Southern Methodist University and is past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri.

You don’t just recruit companies to the Albuquerque metro area, but offer many business assistance and incentive programs to new and growing companies. What do you think are the most important ones for university start-up companies?

“I think JTIP, the state’s Job Training Incentive Program, is important for start-ups and early stage manufacturing companies, if the company is adequately capitalized to reach first productions and/or is able to deliver services, per the requirements of the JTIP board. The technology jobs tax credit is also helpful. This applies to qualifying New Mexico technology and R & D businesses that may take a credit equal to 5% (10% in rural areas) of expenditures. The credit may be carried forward for up to three years.

Once start-ups begin manufacturing, they can then take advantage of a manufacturing investment tax credit, gross receipts tax exemption on consumables, and the single sales factor apportionment for calculating their corporate income tax liability. Additionally, AED’s business development team can work with new companies to identify alternative lenders, organizations and associations that assist small companies, and local suppliers, service providers, and companies that provide contract manufacturing.”

In terms of growing and retaining companies in the Albuquerque metro area, what were the most important pieces of legislation that AED supported during the 2016 legislative session?

“Preserving LEDA funding, ensuring adequate JTIP funding, and approval of the Rapid Workforce Development Fund were key legislative successes for business recruitment and growth and job creation. These three pieces of legislation were endorsed by the AED Board of Directors and passed by the Legislature. LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) is a closing fund available to local governments to help with new or expanding businesses that need additional funding for land acquisition, building renovations and infrastructure needs.

JTIP is the state’s Job Training Incentive Program that reimburses qualifying companies a portion of their training costs for new hires. The program was created in 1972 and has supported the creation of more than 43,000 jobs in nearly 1,300 companies in New Mexico.

The Rapid Workforce Development Fund is a new program created by the Governor to finance training for employees in specialized fields to meet the job requirements of companies moving to New Mexico or companies expanding operations in the state. It is a one-time, non-recurring financial-assistance type of fund available only when recruitment or expansion of a company is not possible without workers who have the required specialized skills. All of these programs are very important recruitment and incentive tools for attracting new companies to New Mexico and expanding current ones.”