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UNM Business and Economic Summit a Success

UNM Rainforest Innovations hosted the third UNM Business and Economic Summit on January 12. The purpose of the event was to continue a statewide dialogue about ways to grow our New Mexico economy and our innovation ecosystem. Themed, “New Mexico 2030,” the goal was to convene stakeholders (public, private and non-profit) from across New Mexico. Recognizing the progress that the state has made to date, the Summit envisioned economic growth in New Mexico. The summit was based around the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce’s strategic plan, “Driving New Mexico’s Future: Empowering a Competitive Economy in a Post-Pandemic World”.

To view recordings of the event, the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce report, and learn more about the speakers, panelists and moderators involved, please visit: https://innovations.unm.edu/summit/.

The summit kicked off with opening remarks by Garnett S. Stokes, Ph.D., President of the University of New Mexico, followed by a presentation of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce Report: “Driving New Mexico’s Future,” by Rob Black, President & CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, and Ted Abernathy, Principal & Founder of Economic Leadership.

The report analyzed the opportunities and challenges our state will face in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic and specific strategies we can use to optimize our economic competitiveness. The New Mexico Chamber of Commerce teamed up with consulting firm Economic Leadership to develop the report. They collected data from almost 700 business leaders in New Mexico and met with seven focus groups of stakeholders in order to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to analyze the state’s competitiveness.

Panel Discussions

panel - universitiesFollowing the report presentation were two panel discussions. Leaders from the state’s research universities and national laboratories were invited to provide their thoughts and reactions to the Chamber of Commerce report

The first panel was moderated by Mitzi Montoya, Ph.D., Dean of the UNM Anderson School of Management, and included leaders from the state’s research universities, including:

  • Garnett S. Stokes, Ph.D., President, University of New Mexico
  • Dan Arvizu, Ph.D., Chancellor, New Mexico State University
  • Van Romero, Ph.D., Vice President of Research, New Mexico Tech University

The second panel discussion was moderated by James Holloway, Ph.D., UNM Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, and included members from the state’s national laboratories. Panel members included:

panel - labs

  • Colonel Eric Felt, Ph.D., Commander of the Phillips Research Site & Director, Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Kelly D. Hammett, Ph.D., Director, Directed Energy Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Thomas (Thom) Mason, Ph.D., CEO of Triad National Security & Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Scott Aeilts, Associate Labs Director and Chief Financial Officer, Sandia National Laboratories

Keynote Speaker

The keynote speaker of the summit was Michael M. Crow, Ph.D., President of Arizona State University. His speech, “The Role of Public Universities in State-wide Economic Development,” explored the important role that universities play and ten limiting factors that can hold them back from operating at their full potential.

“The question is, what’s the role of public universities and state-wide economic development and the answer, very simply answer, is the role is central,” said Dr. Crow. “In fact, it’s so important that we need to figure out how to do it… If we really want to change economic outcomes, if we really want to enhance economic competitiveness, what we need are universities that are capable of change”

Dr. Michael M. Crow is an educator, knowledge enterprise architect, science and technology policy scholar and higher education leader. He became the sixteenth president of Arizona State University in July 2002 and has spearheaded ASU’s rapid and groundbreaking transformative evolution into one of the world’s best public metropolitan research universities. As a model “New American University,” ASU simultaneously demonstrates comprehensive excellence, inclusivity representative of the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the United States, and consequential societal impact.

“You need to be able to have aspirations unique to each university…” said Dr. Crow. “We have 8 design aspirations and one of them is that the university itself will be entrepreneurial. We will act and behave in entrepreneurial ways that drive and stimulate innovation and we will make no apologies for it”.

Dr. Crow says this entrepreneurial mindset allows for economic, social, and cultural success. This notion that universities have a responsibility to cultivate their own success and outcomes in return allows them to cultivate innovation and growth for themselves.

Keynote Reflections

After the keynote speech, Timothy M. Keller, Mayor of the City of Albuquerque, was invited to reflect on the keynote speech and provide his thoughts. Mayor Keller also provided some slides where he showed some of Albuquerque’s different economic development strategies, some key areas where the city exceeds, and how it ranks among other cities amid the pandemic. The city has adopted different strategies related to economic development and one of the most important objectives has been to determine Albuquerque’s key strengths and exploit them.

“We need to focus on who we are and what we are best at… and become a national or international leader,” said Mayor Keller.

According to his slideshow, some key strengths included film and digital media, smart city technology, space technology, bioscience, and directed energy.

“This is what people are coming to Albuquerque for already, so let’s build on that and have the workforce and be the best in these areas.”

Breakout Rooms

The next portion of the summit included breakout rooms to further discuss the specific strategies from the Chamber of Commerce Report. There was a moderator in each breakout room and all attendees were sorted evenly among the rooms so that they could provide feedback and comments.

Breakout room 1 addressed the challenge of insufficient skilled workers and was moderated by Tracey Bryan, President & CEO of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico. Some specific strategies discussed were to increase the overall labor pool for employers, improve the number of workers with work readiness skills and in-demand middle skills, and extend opportunity to underserved communities and populations.

Breakout room 2 addressed the top concern of stakeholders and ways to improve overall regulatory business climate. The room was moderated by Richard Anklam, President of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, and the main strategy discussed was make the New Mexico regulatory environment among the most business friendly in America.

Breakout room 3 discussed taking advantage of the state’s location, respond to corporate needs and spread opportunity more broadly. The room was moderated by Mathis Shinnick, CEO of OptiPulse, Inc., and the discussion revolved around strengthening the state’s infrastructure.

Breakout room 4 explored ways to take advantage of the state’s location, respond to corporate needs and spread opportunity more broadly. The room was moderated by Waneta Tuttle, Manager of Tramway Venture Partners, and the strategy explored was prioritizing and emphasizing entrepreneurship.

Lastly, breakout room 5 explored ways to align business needs, higher education assets and government efforts to efficiently grow the New Mexico economy and raise the prosperity of the state’s citizens. The room was moderated by Jon Clark, Deputy Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, and they explored amplifying the voice of business and create forums for ongoing collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Following a short break the summit assembled again and each moderator reported out on their respective groups’ feedback and comments by areas of competitiveness.

Closing Remarks & Adjourn

Closing remarks were made by Jon Clark, Deputy Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, and adjourned by James Holloway, Ph.D., Provost & Executive Vice President for Academy Affairs at the University of New Mexico.

“At the end of a long day… I want to leave you with a message,” said Jon Clark. “We are very optimistic about how we’re moving forward. We know that a lot of (New Mexico) businesses still need our help and we’re working on ways we can do exactly that.”

The Economic Development Department received a grant from the EDA which will help them undertake a 20-year strategic plan. The plan is going to be based on four pillars which are to raise income levels in New Mexico, diversify the economy and build on 21st century industries, develop talent, and collaborate with state and local partners. To see through this plan, they will work with local contractors to collect data, build strategies and action items, and develop reasonable timeframes to see through these goals.

“We know we’re going through tough times, the toughest that many of us and the businesses we work for have ever experience,” said John Clark. “But there is also hope. We have a great chance now to move economic development in our state forward in ways that we’ve never done before.”