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NM Rainforest University Center Works to Build Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural New Mexico Through Partnerships with UNM Branch Campuses

Home to multiple national labs and several top tier research institutions, New Mexico has come to be known as the State of Innovation. In addition to the presence of strong STEM institutions, the inhabitants of New Mexico have a long history of engaging in entrepreneurship activities. Whether it’s selling piñon and firewood on the side of a northern New Mexico road, showcasing Native American art and jewelry under the portal in downtown Santa Fe or Old Town Albuquerque, running a food truck at a Navajo flee market in Gallup, or developing the next renewable energy technology at the Los Alamos  National Labs, New Mexicans have the spirit of entrepreneurship running through their veins.

However, in a state with a population of under 3 million and more small rural communities than urban metropolitan hubs, it can be hard for New Mexico entrepreneurs, especially those living in the more rural parts for the state, to capitalize on their business pursuits.

As a result, upon the receipt of a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) in 2018, the NM Rainforest EDA University Center is working to bridge that economic gap. The University Center focuses on developing eCommerce based entrepreneurial training and uses The University of New Mexico (UNM) branch campuses to help spread eCommerce knowledge and training to the more rural parts of the state.

Participating UNM branch campuses include Los Alamos, Valencia, Taos, and Gallup and the EDA University Center has tailored its programming to uniquely work with and meet each campus’ individual needs with the ultimate goal of helping each community establish its own entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Since the establishment of the NM Rainforest EDA University Center program in 2018, several branch campus communities have been very active and engaged with the University Center:

Victoria Gonzales, who has served as the main point of contact for UNM-Taos, states “UNM-Taos is very grateful to the University Center for support given over the last few years – we have enjoyed the technical expertise offered by entire main campus team. UNM-Taos students and entrepreneurs have taken part in the great programs offered by the Center including the Create, Sell, Bank class and the Pitch Deck Competition and have gained invaluable knowledge from these opportunities.

Since the launch of the NM Rainforest University Center program, UNM-Taos has worked to acquire their own set of funding to establish the Taos Hub of Internet-based Vocation and Education (HIVE). The Taos HIVE has established its mission on “combining small business coaching and mentorship, a coworking space, and community college classrooms to support any stage of learning in an accepting, accessible, and community-led atmosphere.” This effort will help the community of Taos continue to develop its own innovation ecosystem independent of the NM Rainforest University Center.

UNM-Valencia has also been a dedicated and engaged member of the NM Rainforest University Center through the efforts of one of its prime business professors, Stephen Takach.

When asked to reflect on the University Center’s partnership with the UNM-Valencia branch campus Stephen states:

The University Center comes alongside me as I work toward one of my longstanding goals of bringing entrepreneurial experiences into the UNM Valencia community and ultimately is a comfortable destination that I constantly refer my students to with their entrepreneurial goals which expands and enhances their educational experience.”

UNM Rainforest Innovations and Innovation Academy will continue a collaborative effort so that the NM Rainforest University Center can continue to support the development and solidification of eCommerce training and the creation of thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout both urban and rural New Mexico.

If you’d like to learn more about the NM Rainforest EDA University Center or engage further with the program and its efforts please contact Cecilia Pacheco at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu.