A Look at University of New Mexico and Corporatization
Here we will focus on UNM, the University of New Mexico, located in Albuquerque. Along with that, Albuquerque is also home to Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories. Los Alamos National Laboratories is also a couple hours away.
Albuquerque and the “Easy, Bureaucratic Life”
Back in 1997 Working Women magazine had a profile of Albuquerque in its March issue, titled Silicon Mesa. It focused on the growth of its high tech industries. It said that like a lot of cities in the West, “Albuquerque had more than its share of federal installation, …an Air Force base and two research facilities that were involved in weapons development – Sandia and Los Alamos. Add to these a state universitiy – the University of New Mexico – and you’ve got a community mired in the easy, bureaucratic life.” (2)
Working Women also brought up the issue of technology transfer, where this once-secret technology could be licensed commercially. Two people mentioned are Chuck Wellborn, then president and CEO of Science and Technology Corp. It was founded in 1993 to work with UNM to bring the research produced to the marketplace to commercialize. The other is Arlan Andrews who helped found Muse Technologies. Founded with the help of two researchers from Sandia working on virtual reality technology, they developed the Muse system. Costing $100,000, its used by Sandia scientists for nuclear weapon simulations and private clients like oil companies for more efficient exploration.
High tech companies came to Albuquerque because of a combination of tax breaks and tax-subsidized programs. As Working Women stated, “Low taxes and corporate incentives…have brought the service divisions of companies like America Online and Southwest Airlines to the area…Intel expanded its Albuquerque plant, which is now the biggest chip-making facility.” Of course there are drawbacks from these giveaways. Southwest Organizing Project has documented many of them.
Also, due to lack of outside capital in the area, they created a company to give that. In 1993 Lockheed Martin, then administrator of Sandia, created Technology Ventures Corporation, a non-profit set up to give start-up capital to new high tech firms. It was run by former banker Sherman McCorkle, and set up to use publicly funded research for private gain.
UNM and Corporatization
UNM, like other universities, is becoming increasingly corporatized. The president is referred to as the CEO, and business interests have a stake in the university.(1) UNM has gotten into the game of subsidizing private companies also. In 2001 they and the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) Foundation, part of the utility conglomerate with its own shady history, set up an endowed chair for microsystems technology and commercialization. Creatively called the PNM Chair in Microsystems, Commercialization and Technology, it was funded with $750,000 from the PNM Foundation and another $750,000 from state matching funds first given in 1985, with earnings growing to $2 million, to create the five-year position. (3)
The purpose is to commercialize microsystems. As described in the Albuquerque Tribine article that reported this story:
“Microsystems are tiny machines – about as big as the width os a strand of hair – that can think, move, sense and communicate in microscopic environments. They are used in car air bags and high-resolution computer printers. Developing applications include very fast telecommunications switches and equipment, smart wiring for aircraft and cars, and entire blood labs on a chip the size of a business card.”
Later on UNM entered into a commitment with the two national labs on nanoscience research. On August 7, 2001 UNM signed an agreement with Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories pledging these institutions commitment to research in nanoscience. The agreement formed the New Mexico Nanoscience Alliance.(4) As before, nanoscience was touted as bringing in a bold new era, as well as jobs too. The latter is important in New Mexico the poorest state in the Union.
Business interests have been touting the vast economic incentives of these new technologies. But if they are so profitable why are businesses not investing in the research themselves? The answer is that these industries have a lot of risk, and can take years to research, with the economic incentive not that immediate. So better to have public labs and universities take the risks, costwise and other, and let businesses profit. One scheme was renting out Los Alamos Labs to businesses who don’t want to build their own labs.(5)
Next Generation Economy
Some of the players in this scheme is the Next Generation Economic Initiative. The article on PNM quotes Dan Hartley and Mike Skaggs, chairman-elect and president respectively, of Next Generation. Hartley said “the real place for developing this technology is New Mexico. We have all the keys here with the national labs, spinoff companies, high-tech infrastructure and the university” and claiming it would create 10,000 jobs. Skaggs said the chair was the first private-sector support for microelectronics. Other articles here in the future may delve into the Next Generation Economic Initiative and its influences on the state.
In 2003 UNM Provost Brian Foster stated that the University has a stake in the state’s economic development. As an “enterprise” UNM’s budget of $1.4 billion made it the fourth largest “business entity” in the state. UNM was also working with the new New Mexico Economic Development Corp. headed by former Regent and banker Larry Willard. He also touted the Science and Technology Corporation as “poised to take inventions from UNM and make them the basis to employ New Mexicans” by creating research programs that develop intellectual property to bring in revenue to the university.(6)
The supposed payback is not evident either. In 2004 the UNM Board of Regents questioned the universities investment in Science and Technology Corporation. Since it was founded it failed to turn a profit in 11 years of its existence, and has been heavily subsidized by UNM. From 1997 to 2004 it has received $9.8 million from UNM, and in turn has only received $1.8 million in licensing revenue back. In 2004 alone, it earned $400,000 but spent $2 million.(7) The supporters argued that it was still relatively young company, and the benefits could take years to realize, and that it would be difficult to predict when it would make a profit.
But all that misses the point. Corporations use public funds for private gain. They don’t really believe in free enterprise. They want the public to take the risks. The military, as shown before, also has a benefit in swaying the direction of this research.
(1)”Interview: UNM CEO Richard Peck.” New Mexico Business Journal. February 1997. Pg. 12-43.
(2)”Silicon Mesa.” Working Woman. March 1997. Pg. 9-10.
(3)Vorenberg, Sue. “UNM, PNM Endow Microsystems Chair.” Albuquerque Tribune. May 5, 2001. p. B6.
(4)Limon, Iliana. “UNM, Labs Commit to Nanoscience Research.” Daily Lobo (UNM). August 13, 2001. Pg 1, 8.
(5)Webb, Andrew. “Lab For The Little Guy.” Albuquerque Journal. July 19, 2004. Business Outlook, p. 1, 9.
(6)Proctor, Jeff. “University Sets Economic Agenda.” Daily Lobo (UNM). October 13, 2003.
(7)Zoretich, Frank. “UNM Regents Question Tech Revenues.” Albuquerque Tribune. August 11, 2004. P. A3.
An article in the Albuquerque Tribune in 2000 gives some more info on microelectronics in Albuquerque. It hypes up the potential for microelectonics. It mentions UNM and its Technological Entrepreneurship Program and director Steve Walsh. UNM also has a Management of Technology and Technological Entrepreneurship Program at the Anderson School of Management, teaching students on how to market MEMS. UNM also has a small microsystems fabrication facility
It mentions Paul McWhorter, deputy director of Microsystems Science, Technology and Components at Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia was also building the MESA, the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Application facility for $350 million. Sandia is also involved in the Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, and Jackie Kerby Moore was the park program manager.
It mentions the Air Force Research Laboratory, which wants to use MEMS in its laser programs. It has its own design facility.
It also mentions Management Sciences Inc. as using MEMS in their systems.
Also mentioned is the Next Generation Economic Initiative in promoting MEMS as a high tech cluster using public funds for private profit, and Dan Hartley comes up again.
Vorenberg, Sue. “Mighty Micros.” Albuquerque Tribune. August 30, 2000. http://www.abqtrib.com/business/082800_mems.shtml (accessed August 30, 2000)
A press release by then Senator Pete Domenici also mentions MEMS and nanotechnology. Department of Energy funding set up the Nanoscale Science Research Centers Workshop, with leaders named Terry Michalske of Sandia and Don Partin of Los Alamos labs. The Center for Integrated Nanotechnology (CINT) in Sandia and Los Alamos.
News Release. “Domenici Touts Los Alamos and Sandia’s Role in Emerging Micro and Nano-Technologies.” February 27, 2003. Domenici.senate.gov/ (Accessed August 3, 2003)
In 2000 the University of New Mexico received their biggest private donation ever up to then. A Las Cruces couple donated 3 million to the university, with most of the money going to the campus library. (KOAT-TV, Action 7 News Live at 5. March 26, 2000.)
In 2001 the UNM Board of Regents approved a new policy that revised the previous ones on naming university buildings when private donations are involved. Under the new policy donors can have their names put on new or existing facilities, art collections, gardens and endowed professorships. Private donations are being solicited to pay for new construction and revovation projects, and other projects to meet university needs.
Like other universities, UNM is increasingly relying on the private sector for money. Here are some of the details of the new policy implemented then, of what donors would have to pay to get a name on a site; from the UNM Business Policies and Procedures Manual, Policy 1020: Naming Facilities, Spaces, Endowments and Programs:
*New facilities: 50 percent of new construction costs or $3 million, whichever is greater.
*Renovated facilities and existing facilities: 75 percent of cost of renovating the facility or the fair market value of the facility.
*Portable Items: Donation of the collection or at least 50 percent of the value of the collection.
*Tribute markers (like trees or gardens): 50 percent of the cost or value of associated items.
*Endowed chairs and professorships: Full funding of the endowment.
*Programmatic entities: Determined on a case-by-case basis.
And here is the actual costs of what a name on a building would be:
*Zimmerman Library: …..$25.35 million
*Center for the Arts: ……..$18.75 million
*University Stadium: ……$16.43 million
*The Pit (Lobo Stadium): ..$15.00 million
*Mesa Vista Hall: ………….$12.15 million
*Scholes Hall: ………………$5.70 million
The money UNM has received from private donors has increased each year. Here is a breakdown from 1991 to 2001:
1991-92: ….$14.72 million
1992-93: ….$16.23 million
1993-94: ….$17.45 million
1994-95: ….$16.03 million
1995-96: ….$13.73 million
1996-97: ….$21.26 million
1997-98: ….$31.10 million
1998-99: ….$25.89 million
1999-2000: $31.40 million
As one can see, private support more than doubled in these ten years. Likely increased now. More evidence of UNM as a corporate university.
Sanchez, Jennifer W. “UNM Sets Policy and Price to Put Private Donors’ Names on Buildings.” Albuquerque Tribune. November 16, 2001. Pg. A3.
An article in the New Mexico Business Journal in the 1990’s talks more about the role of UNM being a “key player” in the Albuquerque economy.
It mentions then that UNM has more than 25,000 students, 7,500 faculty and staff, payroll of $187 million and a budget in excess of $502 million, with the University Hospital having an additional budget to that.
Along with sending trained people into communities for jobs that produce, UNM was also aggressively moving to attract research dollars to the state, “which in turn will create new private sector jobs and bring new companies to New Mexico.” The main thrust of this effort was the expansion of the University Research Park to become the university’s showcase. A 100-acre facility located minutes away from I-25 highway, the Albuquerque International Airport, Sandia National Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base, and downtown Albuquerque. The site was first developed in 1965 with two buildings owned by EG&G and Dikewood Corporation. Both soon left and were replaced by John Hancock Insurance and the Social Security Administration. John Hancock soon left also, and the buildings were donated to UNM.
Around 1990 UNM became more aggressive in marketing the research park, and they subsequently added 100,000 square feet of space to the area, including office and laboratory space. The Albuquerque Economic Development Office relocated to the park, with its then executive director Jim Covell stating it would bring “significant dividents to the city and state.” The article also states the facilities “not only help UNM to do research, but they also show industry that UNM is able to do the research.”
Mentioned is how the university combined its Business Assistance and Resource Center and Technology Ventures Division, which also moved to the park.
It mentions two “centers for materials study and fabrication”: the Center for Micro-Engineered Ceramics, which increased its contracts since moving to the research park; and the Center for High Techology Materials. Both “work with private industry and act as a conduit for technology transfer.” Also mentioned is the Optoelectronics Building which would be built if voters approved a bond issue in that November’s general election.
“University of New Mexico.” New Mexico Business Journal. (date currently unknown, sometime in 1990’s).
Here’s an academic article that takes a look at university research parks, using UNM as a case study. UNM then had 55 research centers.
Everett M. Roger “Technology Transfer from University-Based Research Centers: The University of New Mexico Experience“. Journal of Higher Education. November 1999. at FindArticles.com. 18 Mar, 2012.