Introducing Nusenda Foundation's Financial Education Innovator Award

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Innovate ABQ

Albuquerque already has key elements required for a knowledge economy including UNM – a Tier One research university with an associated teaching and research hospital, national research laboratories, and government support. With that in mind, Innovate ABQ was born.

Innovate ABQ represents an unprecedented collaboration between educational systems, local and county government, and private enterprise in order to foster innovation and create job growth. 

It is a public-private partnership created to develop a 7-acre innovation district in Downtown Albuquerque for foster economic development and job creation in New Mexico. The site is intended to help put the region on a path to higher growth by improving the productivity of people and firms in ways that lead to better incomes and living standards for all.

It creates an environment where students, educators, entrepreneurs, community and business leaders come together, spurring creative collaboration and shortening the cycle of business development and job creation. 

This district helps retain students and researchers in Albuquerque well beyond their tenure at UNM and facilitate the creation of new businesses and jobs. In turn, a flourishing city with improved innovation-based employment opportunities will help attract a new generation of high-caliber students, faculty, researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. 

Innovate ABQ

This commitment was made to improve educational and economic opportunities for New Mexicans. A stronger, more viable community has a positive impact – both for our members and everyone in the community, day in and day out.

Innovate ABQ’s vision includes more than 600,000 square feet of physically compact, technically-wired, walkable space devoted to bringing together New Mexico’s innovators to foster the creation of long-term, job-creating ventures, and increase access to opportunity for the whole community. It started in mid-2013, when the University of New Mexico (UNM) and STC.UNM, a technology transfer support arm of UNM, proposed the idea of the creation of an innovation district in Downtown Albuquerque. Nusenda Credit Union was a founding partner of this project, contributing $3 million in November of that year.

The Lobo Rainforest and Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) FUSE Makerspace opened in 2017, bringing form to the vision of Innovate ABQ. The Lobo Rainforest, which is was the first phase of the four-phase development, houses STC.UNM and its incubator, the Cecchi VentureLab; as well as the UNM Innovation Academy for student and entrepreneurial training. CNM’s FUSE Makerspace is a community center with tools that allow members to design, prototype, and create manufactured works. It currently houses seven local businesses with products ranging from skateboards and guitars to jewelry and toys.

Other tenants include Sandia National Laboratories’ Center for Commercialization and Collaboration, the Air Force Research Laboratories’ Technology Engagement Office, General Atomics, and Emera Emerging Technologies.

The second through sixth floors of the building are for student housing and a small fitness center. Each of the 155 apartments have two bedrooms and two bathrooms for upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students. It was also recently announced that the Navajo Nation will lease the upper two floors of housing for their students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Also in the space is a café and a first-in-the-market Nusenda Credit Union branch that gives entrepreneurs the tools and convenience they need to focus on building their businesses via Interactive Video Tellers and Service Representatives.

Other proposed development includes renovation of the existing, historic building that used to be Albuquerque’s First Baptist Church for office, community, and event space; parking structures; retail space; and pedestrian-friendly green space.

In 2014, Albuquerque received a multi-year investment by Living Cities, a collaborative of the nation’s 22 largest foundations, in support of Innovate ABQ with the goal of job creation and development of economic opportunities. Our commitment to Innovate ABQ played an integral part in receiving the Living Cities investment; later that year, Bloomberg Philanthropies gave the project a $1.2 million grant. In April, 2017, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded a $2.5 million grant for portions of the project; the U.S. Economic Development Administration in September of that year awarded a $1 million grant for a bioscience incubator