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Newsbites – November 2016
Acoma Pueblo Partners with Bright Green Group of Companies
A new partnership between Acoma Pueblo and Bright Green Group of Companies is creating “the world’s most advanced, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility and research center for medicinal plants,” according to a promotional video (www.brightgreengroup.com). The fully automated greenhouse, constructed on approximately 150 acres of Acoma Pueblo Reservation, will have the capacity to grow 40 million plants per year.
The MJ Brown Research Center and greenhouse facility will cost more than $160 million and cover 5.8 million square feet, the equivalent of 4,000 average size homes. Power, water and gas facilities will be provided, and are also intended to help Acoma Pueblo become self-sufficient. “The utilities are fully integrated, the operation is environmentally friendly and the climate is excellent for growing high-quality plants,” said Jan Pieter Dalsem, an international leader in high-tech greenhouse projects.
Preservation Sciences, Inc. is licensing its protein-based coating and water-based bacterial removal dehydration technology to Bright Green for the project. The unique process accelerates the drying time without the typical vitamin and mineral loss or cellular damage created by conventional methods that use extreme heat or freeze-drying.
Bright Green’s main products will be pharmaceutical-grade oils extracted from plants that have been “medicinally-enhanced” through gene-splicing. The company is in the process of licensing federal government patents related to marijuana but plans to focus on other medicinal plants until federal laws change, according to a press release. The products, including a line of health drinks, may be distributed at tribal gaming facilities around the country and through remotely controlled kiosks.
During its two-year construction phase, the project is projected to create more than 1,200 direct and indirect jobs. Bright Green’s CEO, John Stockwell, says, after construction, the facility will create high-tech jobs for the region and opportunities for universities to collaborate with the research center.
The facility will be entirely funded by private investors, largely through a U.S. job creation program called EB-5, which Congress created in 1990 to stimulate the economy through capital investment by foreign investors. The Acoma project has paved the way for 125 foreign investors, mostly from China, to come to the United States. Those individuals have purchased shares in Bright Green for $800,000 per investor.
ABQ Employers Start Buy/Hire Local Program
At 6.4 percent, Albuquerque has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country. Education and healthcare providers employ more than 8 percent—about 47,000 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number doesn’t include office or administrative positions. Major institutions in Albuquerque often bring in out-of-city and out-of-state products and services that could otherwise be building jobs at local companies. Urban farms and local food co-ops could be directly supplying workplace cafeterias.
New Mexico has many untapped workers who just need to hone the skills that employers need. On Sept. 27, some of Albuquerque’s largest healthcare and education institutions debuted Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque, a citywide initiative to create training programs and work with local contractors and workers. UNM’s Health Science Center, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, First Choice Community Healthcare, Central New Mexico Community College and Albuquerque Public Schools have pledged to think, train and buy local to help boost the local economy. UNM HSC and Presbyterian alone represent almost $3 billion of economic activity in central New Mexico.
Healthy Neighborhoods ABQ, which expects to have programs in place by early 2017, is modeled after a successful initiative in Cleveland, Ohio. A community development organization, The Democracy Collaborative, is helping facilitate both programs by convening multiple stakeholders.
Our Land 2: Tracing the Acequia Commons
National Symposium in Albuquerque and Santa Fe • Nov. 9–17
A national symposium focused on questions of land stewardship, sovereignty and health will take place in Albuquerque and Santa Fe this month. Our Land 2: Tracing the Acequia Commons will explore issues related to regional food economies, climate change, dryland agriculture and the history, management, lessons and prospects of northern New Mexico’s unique acequia (ditch irrigation commons) system. Can acequias be expanded to include their uplands and headwaters? Will ditch rights be lost to privatization and sold to developers?
During six days there will be talks, walks, exhibits, films and pop-up programming. An acequia walk on Nov. 13 will include a presentation about intergenerational knowledge transfer, landrace seed saving, coping with drought and conflict, record-keeping and community involvement. On Nov. 14, Public Trust Law, a commonwealth legal framework that protects ecological systems, will be discussed, and there will be a presentation about efforts to preserve the Gila River, one of the last free-running rivers in the Southwest. On Nov. 16, “land justice” from a social movement context will be discussed and videos by farmers and ranchers will be shown, including a Guggenheim Award-funded work on how desert landscapes serve as land-use sentinels.
The symposium has been organized by the Agrarian Trust in partnership with the Quivira Coalition, Biodynamic Association, Food First, Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute, Slow Money Institute, Bioneers, the Río Grande Young Farmers Alliance and Northern New Mexico Young Farmers Coalition.
The events are open to the public, are mostly free and take place mostly in the evenings. To see the full program, visit www.agrariantrust.org/2016Symposium
SFCC’s New Commercialization Center
On Oct. 17, Santa Fe Community College held a ribbon-cutting for the college’s Commercialization Center. This startup incubator is home to two new companies that are examples of the potential for private sector job growth when breakthrough technologies developed at New Mexico’s national laboratories and research universities are commercialized.
Río Grande Neurosciences’ Dr. Sean Hagburg is taking brain stimulation therapies developed at UNM and looking for novel ways to treat patients with brain trauma and concussions. NTxBio cofounder Dr. Alex Koglin is working to turn a discovery made at Los Alamos National Laboratory into a game-changer for the way pharmaceutical drugs are developed.
The presence of these companies at SFCC will have a direct impact on students, who will have an opportunity to learn firsthand from local inventors. SFCC’s Trades and Advanced Technology Center is doing similar work in biofuels and clean-energy technology. This innovative workforce training model is intended to help make New Mexico the place to be for “disruptive” start-up entrepreneurs, create jobs and major new industries, and strengthen the state’s economy.
Northern NM College Awarded NSF Grant
Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its EDUCERE project to increase enrollment and retention of Native American and Hispanic students in its Engineering Program. Thirty first-time college students are currently enrolled in the Physics for Engineers I class.
Northern’s College of Engineering and Technology has implemented a research project—to continue through Sept. 2019—called EDUCERE: Ensuring Diversity and Undergraduate Completion: Enrichment and Retention in Engineering. The project, led by Drs. Ashis Nandy, Steven Cox and Stephanie Amedeo Marquez, is designed to explore how under-represented students best learn complex Physical Science concepts. As part of the curriculum, students participate in active learning and project-based activities before the theoretical foundation is laid, and after, to determine which learning model provides the best predictor of success. Students also participate in mentoring experiences and summer internships to encourage commitment to pursuing STEM career pathways and graduate studies.
In other NNMC news, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education has granted accreditation to NNMC’s baccalaureate degree program in nursing, indicating that the school’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences has met national standards.
NNMC and other New Mexico institutions of higher education are hoping that, on Nov. 8, voters approve General Obligation Bond C (www.nmbondc.com). That funding would be used for critical health and safety infrastructure improvements; create jobs for architects, builders and contractors, and boost spending to local businesses. It would also allow those institutions to further invest in STEM programs.
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