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Newsbites – January 2015
New Mexico Leverages $8.6 Million to Help Small Businesses
On Dec. 23, 2014, New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela announced that New Mexico’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) has disbursed $8,605,922 to help small businesses grow and create jobs. New Mexico has $4,562,428 available to New Mexico companies until July 2015. “Creating new jobs and helping small business grow remains a top priority in New Mexico, because small, private business help diversify our economy,” said Barela. “These funds go a long way toward helping small-business owners secure the capital they need to move forward in building their business.”
In Albuquerque, the Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity (GAHH) was able to use SSBCI funds when it wanted to move to a more prominent location to increase visibility throughout the community and expand operations. GAHH sought financing but did not meet the bank’s loan-to-value requirements. Using SSBCI funds, the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA) provided a $241,000 subordinate loan participation, enabling Wells Fargo Bank to extend a $1.6 million loan to purchase and renovate the new GAHH headquarters and Habitat ReStore.
SSBCI is designed to help spur new private-sector lending or investment in small companies by leveraging private capital along with the federal support offered by the program. SSBCI funding is not repaid by participating states to the federal government. Instead, to help even more small businesses, repaid loans and investments remain with the participating states to be redeployed locally.
ABQid: A New Business Accelerator
ABQid (www.abqid.com), Albuquerque’s first business startup accelerator, announced its first class of selected companies last summer. Eighty diverse companies—some established and some just getting started—applied, and 45 presented a pitch. ABQid’s board identified 18 teams. Of those, six were found to have nonviable company ideas but were allowed to audit the program. In exchange for a 6 percent stake, each of the 11 companies chosen received a $20,000 stipend to join the accelerator’s 90-day crash course. The following 11 companies were selected:
• AttachedApps: delivers cloud-based contact and sales-management software
• Blackfish, Inc.: specializes in developing games and interactive book apps
• InnoBright: makes an accelerator for animation rendering that could speed up the process of making animated film projects
• Itsums: collects images for the client’s latest project and organizes them to save time and money
• NuAira: makes a pneumatic booster for bicycles and mobility solutions for personal, public and military transportation
• Nuvos: makes a universal software-development kit that allows developers to avoid having to rewrite applications to support different devices
• Peptineo: is developing a fully enabled, nano-based therapeutic-delivery platform for antibiotics and vaccines
• PiFi: makes hardware and software cloud platform that enables parents to easily manage when, and for how long, their children use the Internet
• Plug.Solar: designs, manufactures and distributes the SunPort plug-and-play solar-access point and delivers pre-purchased solar electricity to mobile devices
• SportXast: makes a smartphone app that enables the user to easily capture and share game highlights
• ToroFish: developed an affiliate program for students, teachers and study groups
Bernalillo County and Río Grande Community Development Collaborate
The South Valley Economic Development Center (SVEDC) is a collaborative effort between Bernalillo County and the Río Grande Community Development Corporation (RGCDC). SVEDC serves as both a business incubator for clients using the facility and as an economic development catalyst for the unincorporated area of the South Valley.
The nonprofit RGCDC is currently working to help focus a vision for the South Valley and promote entrepreneurial enterprise. Guided by a mission to support community-wide economic and social development that enriches traditional cultural values and historical uses of the land, with a budget of $2 million a year, the organization runs 16 projects. They range from the kitchen incubator at the SVEDC to the Generation Justice project, the Ciclovia bicycling event, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and several rural projects with farmers and entrepreneurs. 505.217.2473, www.rgcdc.org
WESST Enterprise Centers
WESST (Women’s Economic Self Sufficiency Team) is a 25-year-old Albuquerque-based small business development organization that works to help create new jobs and build a strong economic climate in the New Mexico communities it serves. WESST’s regional enterprise centers can be found in Río Rancho, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Roswell and Farmington. Each hosts a Women’s Business Center program, funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The WBC program was founded to foster the growth of woman-owned businesses by providing access to education, mentoring, training, business development and financing opportunities.
WESST offers long-term, comprehensive business consulting and SBA micro-loans. While a large percentage of the organization’s clients are women and minorities, WESST provides services to any New Mexico resident interested in launching a new business or expanding an existing one. www.wesst.org
Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center in Albuquerque
The nonprofit Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center, with support from the federal Economic Development Administration, opened in July 2014 as an incubator and resource center for arts entrepreneurs. The center offers workshops on topics such as budgeting and human resource issues, provides one-on-one coaching and helps pair clients with professionals who can mentor them in specific business-related areas. On Jan. 13, a panel of local experts will present a workshop on creating a marketing plan. 505.224.9808, www.keshetdance.org/keshet-ideas-and-innovation-center-kiic/
Accion Receives Grant for Northern NM Entrepreneurs
The Santa Fe Community Foundation has given Accion New Mexico a $250,000 grant to expand the nonprofit organization’s ability to provide loans to emerging entrepreneurs and existing small businesses in Los Alamos, Mora, Río Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos counties.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded $270,000 to Accion’s loan program in October 2014. Between January and November 2014, Accion provided $715,690 through 35 loans to small businesses, helping create or sustain 68 jobs. The organization offers business loans up to $750,000, along with training, networking and other support services to business owners or those who want to start a business. Eight-six percent of the small business loans issued by Accion in 2014 went to low-income, minority and/or women entrepreneurs.
City of Santa Fe Launches Ignite Entrepreneurship Request for Proposals
Kickoff to a conversation with local businesses and entrepreneurs
The city of Santa Fe’s Economic Development Division has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) with the goal of igniting the entrepreneurial economy in Santa Fe.
The RFP asks, among other things:
- What needs to be done to ignite Santa Fe’s entrepreneurial economy?
- How will you light up the entrepreneurial network, i.e., facilitate or create connections, collaboration, co-learning, mentoring, problem solving or other useful interaction among entrepreneurs in Santa Fe?
- How will you raise the level of business savvy and skills among entrepreneurs, e.g., knowledge of business basics such as accounting, legal structures, getting through permits and regulations, managing staff, market research, marketing to target audiences and more?
- What will you do to create excitement and buzz around entrepreneurship in Santa Fe?
- How will you create awareness of and connections to existing resources for business development, e.g., Santa Fe Business Incubator, SCORE, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Richard Feynmann Center, workforce placement and training programs, and more?
Kate Noble, with the city’s Economic Development Division, said, “This effort is about throwing open the doors and making powerful collaborations happen. We have incredible, diverse assets and projects already in place, from the Santa Fe Business Incubator to MIX Santa Fe and our Nighttime Economy Task Force, but we want to broaden our horizons and bring in those who are already working to innovate in this community.”
Proposals are due promptly by 2 p.m. on Jan. 7 at the city’s Purchasing Office on Siringo Road. The full RFP and details are available at www.santafenm.gov/bids_rfps/detail/1521p
SF Business Incubator Launches SOLVE to Connect Nonprofits with Community Problem Solvers
The Santa Fe Business Incubator, currently home to more than 19 client companies and three partner organizations, has helped more than 125 companies create over 1,000 jobs. In addition to SFBI’s ever-expanding core group of programs and services, in partnership with the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the incubator has launched an innovative new program called SOLVE. The program’s aim is to connect area nonprofits with community members to help solve challenges and create opportunities in the Santa Fe area.
SOLVE is a two-part event where selected nonprofits pitch problems to a group of community members interested in becoming solvers. The format mimics the process of a startup company pitching to investors, with the problem taking the place of the product and time taking the place of investment capital. Solutions are then pitched and a winner chosen. The nonprofit that has its problem solved in the most innovative and creative way receives a $2,500 grant from the foundation. Prizes are also awarded to the winning solver.
Nonprofits interested in applying should visit SFBI’s website at www.sfbi.net. For more information about the program, requirements and qualifications, contact Sean O’Shea at 505.424.1140 or email@example.com
Taos Trade Exchange: A New Way to Buy, Sell and Trade
A new website provides Taoseños with a local community trading network—a cashless, online trading platform for goods and services. The Taos Trade Exchange allows users to post photos of items and set a price for them. The site’s currency is digital “tokens.” One token equals one dollar. When a user posts a bid, the system emails the seller, setting up a dialogue between the two to facilitate a sale or trade. If both parties agree, the buyer transfers tokens to the seller’s account. The seller can then use those tokens to shop for other things on the site. Users can meet each other to conduct transactions instead of having to package and ship items. The Taos Trade Exchange charges 5 percent.
Users can also advertise services in exchange for a certain number of tokens per hour. If someone has items for sale on the exchange, he or she could sell those items and use the tokens earned without ever dealing with cash. For items worth more than $100, sellers can ask for a combination of tokens and cash.
The exchange was launched by Taos resident Jodie Slack in July 2014. It is slowly building a community of users. If the site is successful, Slack hopes to set up trade exchanges for other communities. For more information, visit taostradex.com
PNM San Juan Replacement Power PRC Hearing
An advocacy group, New Energy Economy, called for two commissioners on the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to recuse themselves from this month’s deliberations on the proposal for shutting down part of the aging coal-fired San Juan Generating Station. NEE said that ongoing regular social and professional contacts between the commissioners and PNM management have the appearance of a conflict of interest. Commissioner Pat Lyons has denied the allegation. The other commissioner NEE mentioned is Karen Montoya.
Under what PNM terms the most cost-effective proposal, two units at the San Juan plant near Farmington would be closed and replaced with a mix of coal from another unit at San Juan, the Palo Verde nuclear plant, natural gas and a relatively small amount of solar. PNM is also asking the commission for approval of a 12 percent rate hike. Protesters will be out in force from 9-11 am as the hearing starts on January 5.
PNM’s Proposed Rooftop Solar Fees Protested
The group ProgressNow New Mexico says that PNM’s proposed interconnection fee amounts to a “fine” for new customers with rooftop solar. The utility has asked the Public Regulation Commission to approve a new monthly $6-per-kilowatt charge that would start in 2016 to help offset the costs of maintaining the electrical grid. “PNM wants to fine solar producers for helping them meet renewable energy goals and going all ‘green’ on their own,” says ProgressNow, a group that describes itself on its website as “New Mexico’s Progressive Headquarters.”
PNM has encouraged rooftop solar since 2006, after the state imposed renewable-energy portfolio standards that mandate that part of the electricity the utility provides must come from distributed generation (DG) sources such as rooftop solar. PNM has paid $23 million to 4,400 DG customers whose power feeds into the grid. The utility is also waiting for the PRC to approve a new rooftop solar program.
Hotel Santa Fe Accesses Solar Energy
On Dec. 1, Hotel Santa Fe, without installing solar panels on-site, became the first hotel in the United States to power—indirectly— all of its guest rooms with solar energy, using proprietary smart-grid technology from Stay.Solar, an Albuquerque startup. Stay.Solar’s software platform matches the power used in the hotel’s 163 guest rooms with third-party-certified renewable energy that gets fed into the grid from solar installations. Data running along with the power on the nation’s smart grid makes it possible to access solar-generated electricity rather than other forms of power production like coal. The power going to the hotel rooms is still from PNM, but Stay.Solar uses a buy-one/get-one model, as well as solar credits.
Hotel Santa Fe’s inclusion in Stay.Solar’s “Running on Sunshine” program is part of the hotel’s commitment to green initiatives that support environmental stewardship, according to Managing Partner Paul Margetson. The hotel’s partnership with Stay.Solar also supports solar development in Santa Fe. For every dollar paid for electricity at the property, an additional dollar goes to supply solar panels to be installed at a Santa Fe nonprofit. That is accomplished through Stay.Solar’s relationship with the nonprofit reChoice™.
Stay.Solar also produces a device called Plug.Solar, which makes it possible for anyone anywhere to obtain solar power from an electrical outlet. For more information, visit www.stay.solar
Architecture 2030 Founder Honored with AIA Award
The board of the American Institute of Architects has honored Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, with AIA’s big annual industry award, the Edward C. Kemper Award. Mazria is a Santa Fe-based, internationally known architect, planner, author and educator who has reshaped the dialogue on how the building sector can reduce its carbon emissions. Albuquerque recently emerged as a 2030 District, joining public and private sectors in number of cities across the country in adopting carbon emission reduction goals.
Upper Río Grande Basin Water Table Drops
Due to drought and pumping, groundwater levels in the upper Río Grande Basin, from southern Colorado to Hudspeth County in Texas, have dropped as much as 200 feet in the past 10 years. It is an area that recharges slowly. Given the decreasing flows, increasing demand and pumping in the basin, the groundwater has become “unsustainable,” according to Brian Hurd, a professor at New Mexico State University.
Between 1980 and 2000, an unusually wet period, counties that are home to Albuquerque, El Paso and Las Cruces, together with Juárez, México, grew by 60 percent. During the dry years between 2000 and 2010, the region’s population grew another 17 percent.
Surface water flowing into the Río Grande is predicted to become increasingly scarce, as snowpack, which supplies 70 percent of the basin’s water, declines and the Southwest become drier. By the end of the century, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, flows in the river will drop by a third. Irrigators and cities will likely tax the region’s groundwater more heavily. El Paso increased rates 8 percent in December and will begin recycling in 2018.
San Juan-Chama Water Shortage
After three consecutive years of inadequate snowpack, for the first time in 40 years, the San Juan-Chama Project has fallen short of the amount of Colorado River water it is supposed to deliver from the mountains of southwestern Colorado to Central New Mexico. Small diversion dams funnel water under the Continental Divide through tunnels into a tributary of the Río Chama that makes its way to the Río Grande. The supply had once been considered a dependable backup to Río Grande water.
Albuquerque, the largest user of water from the San Juan-Chama diversion, currently has enough storage in upstream reservoirs to make up for the shortfall. The major impact of the shortage is on the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s ability to share with other users, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. San Juan-Chama water also provides a late-season supply for farmers.
NM Supreme Court Reverses Decision to Block AG from Water Hearings
Last month the state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the Water Quality Control Commission hearing officer’s approval of a New Mexico Environment Department motion to block the New Mexico Attorney General from participating in the upcoming dairy hearing on the rule that protects NM’s water from industrial dairy waste. The Environment Department had also tried to bar Bill Olson, a former bureau chief, from participating at the hearing. Both will now be allowed to testify.
The court also ruled that the commission could hold its only public hearing on the rule in Roswell. Ninety percent of the dairies in New Mexico are in the southern part of the state. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and the Río Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club had argued that state law says the technical hearing must be in Santa Fe because it will affect dairies operating anywhere in the state. The dairy industry wants more than two dozen changes to the rule, which was approved in 2010. The commission will meet on Jan. 13, after which a hearing on the dairy rule amendments will be scheduled.
Refuge Seeks Producers for Cooperative Agriculture Program
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking one or two agricultural producers for a cooperative program at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, NM. The producer(s), to be selected based on a sealed bidding process, will farm up to 1,026 acres of irrigated land on the refuge for a period of five years. They will be responsible for producing 1.5 million pounds of corn for the benefit of migratory birds on 300 acres in exchange for exclusive rights to produce and harvest crops within the refuge on the remaining 726 acres in an approved crop. The refuge only produces non-GMO crops and is currently experimenting and expanding production of heirloom varieties of corn. For information, call 575.835.1828 or visit www.fws.gov/refuge/bosque_del_apache/
Sustainable Native Plant Nurseries in Native Communities
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Block Grant Program has awarded $46,658, authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to partner with the Río Puerco Alliance to increase economic opportunities for the pueblos of Zia and Laguna and the tri-chapter area of Eastern Navajo tribes. The state Agriculture Department will assist in developing sustainable nurseries that will provide local, culturally appropriate jobs by growing native plants that can be sold locally to larger nurseries.
La Montanita Co-op’s Distribution Supports NM Agriculture
The Albuquerque-based La Montanita Co-op’s distribution center was started eight years ago to support local agricultural producers who want to expand their market, has become a source for higher-volume customers such as restaurants across the state who want to serve and sell local food. The center has become an economic engine for some 300 New Mexico ranchers, farmers and other food producers, whose products make up at least 20 percent of the center’s $5.5 million annual sales.
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