Editor's Note: This is part three of a multi-part series of articles on presentations at the Economic and Rural Development Committee meeting held July 14-15

By Mary Alice Murphy

New Mexico State University Vice President of Economic Development Kevin Boberg gave the third presentation of the Tuesday session to the Interim Economic and Rural Development Legislative Committee, which was held at the Western New Mexico University J. Cloyd Miller Library on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Because the session had gotten behind schedule, Boberg cut short his presentation on Non-Traditional Economic Development: Business Incubation, Work Force Training, Research Institution Collaboration and Investment in Technology Intellectual Property.

 

Boberg said the federal government spends $65 billion on research annually. He noted that the University of New Mexico is ranked 42nd in the top 100 universities in the nation for patents applied for and awarded.

"In terms of innovation, we should applaud locals," Boberg said. "New Mexico Tech helped grow solar energy for space and adapt it to homes. New Mexico became the home for ARCA from Romania. The company couldn't grow in the European Union, so it came to us because we bring work force development and technology innovation together. We have a lot to be proud of."

He said he wanted to make the committee members aware of two pathways-from idea to enterprise and from cradle to career.

"In tech-based business, if we do not have a globally competitive work force, we can't bring the jobs," Boberg said. "But then we can't keep the workforce here if there are no jobs for them."

He said the Arrowhead Center at NMSU brings together more than a dozen programs. "In education and training, we develop the globally competitive work force, which we need if we are to commercialize intellectual property. Our alums have ideas, and they are throughout the state. We have to take what we do from the campus out to them and look for partnerships."

He said a new program being developed is to work with the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, which has "boots on the ground in every county. It's not just 4-H and FFA anymore. Without abandoning those important programs, we want to make the extension services the bridge to expertise on campus. We want to create businesses and grow them."

"I have students involved in everything we do," Boberg said. "Studio G is a student incubation program. The Arrowhead Innovation Network invests capital, with seed grants of $25,000 to try to keep our students in New Mexico. The university is a center for regional commercialization.

"Innovation begins with people," he continued. "They need resources to realize entrepreneurship. We integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and entrepreneurship. Nothing Arrowhead does is in classrooms. Innoventure is teaching bilingual entrepreneurship kindergarten through fifth grade."

He said Studio G has 55 in residence and 45 virtual students working on 25 startups.

A technology incubator can be off campus. "We are in the business of creating companies for economic growth to create jobs," Boberg said. "The Sprint program is for agriculture, energy and water. We can prototype, and we can license technologies."

He showed a photo of the early Arrowhead Park, which began with an early college high school and now features the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We are about providing students opportunities to become globally competitive. We are also in a collaborative effort with the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments."

Committee Chairman Sen. Benny Shendo said he was interested in learning more about the working relationship with the cooperative extension services.

Boberg said the services are narrowly defined as focusing on important things, such as 4-H and FFA for youths. "Some might have a participation in the Stronger Economies Together program to help geographic regions develop an economic development plan. Moving beyond SET, the greatest economic development challenges facing New Mexico are the need for broadband and the single biggest challenge is workforce development. Engage New Mexico has a directory of workforce programs, but they are only in Doña Ana County. We will take to the CES to find out about regional workforce development programs and how to enhance them. We want to take the incubator services off the campus to every county in New Mexico."

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