UNM and Economic Development
The University of New Mexico has long been seen as a catalyst for economic development. In the New Mexico Business Journal from 1999, Howard L. Smith, Dean of Anderson School of Management*, gives his thoughts on this subject.
He gives the stark economic facts about “The Land of Enchantment.” New Mexico ranked 48th in the nation for per capita income, 47th in statewide developed infrastructure, and 48th in terms of a prepared, Internet-literate workforce. It also spent fewer dollars to spend per capita on economic development initiatives than 46 other states. It has also consistently ranked as the poorest state to raise a family, teach in a classroom setting, start a business, or earn a living wage. There is no arguing about the dismal state of New Mexico’s economy. One problem would be the elite power over economic institutions in the state. Yet Smith wants to use more public and private partnerships by these elites to supposedly bring economic growth.
Smith notes the tremendous technology resources in the state, such as Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Air Force Research Facility (Phillips Site). Does not note that these are tied to military development.
The state of New Mexico had more economic development going forward “due to growth industries associated with the strong national economy enjoyed this decade — tourism, high technology, corporate support services (e.g., call centers) and limited manufacturing. Despite this gain, economic development through the rest of the state is modest. As a matter of fact, rural communities dependent on mineral extraction, ranching, forest products and oil/gas extraction have experienced a substantial decline in economic activity. The result is a serious economic stress between the state’s urban and rural communities.”
Smith sees this tension being ameliorated by a strong public/private partnership to improve the state’s economic landscape. He also mentions then UNM president Bill Gordon’s goal of making the University at the the center of economic development initiatives. Smith further states “public and private partnerships are becoming the model nationwide as they eliminate some of the traditional issues of territoriality associated with government programs and community services.”
In an article in the Albuquerque Tribune business section, it announces how UNM appointed a new economic development advisor. It also shows one example of how businesses want to use the university for economic gain, and how universities are bowing down to business interests.
Avi Shama, a professor at the Anderson School of Management, and a native of Israel who has taught at UNM since 1983, was named by interim president F. Chris Garcia to a part time position to UNM’s Economic Development Advisor. Garcia described him as being “the focal point of the economic development activities. of the university.” Shama stated that “the university is open to business.” Also, university officials are realizing that economic activity determines funding, so they have an interest in aligning with business.
Shea Anderson reports that with economic problems being discussed more in this period in 2002, just after 9/11, there is observation that the state of the university’s health is related to the overall health of the state of New Mexico. With that it is also reported that the business community is grumbling about the lax attitude UNM has to economic development (translate getting them rich) in comparison to say the University of Texas Austin. Business groups want the university to do more for business.
“Linking that university system as a tool in the economic development pricess, that’s the sort of goal and purpose that a number of us are advocating for.” Randy Burge, president of New Mexico Information Technology and Software Association.
“UNM could be and probably ought to be the center of economic development in New Mexico. It has to get some of the faculty out of their comfort zone. A lot of the faculty just want to get their government research grants and not be bothered. And that’s OK. But it’s a matter of advancing the interests of the university. They’re really just supporting their institution.” – Chuck Wellborn, former head of Science and Technology Corp, (http://stc.unm.edu/) firm involved in technology transfer for private gain, now a private consultant
“Every president of a state university is involved in economic development. There is no other way for state universities. They have to be community focused. – Shama
They make note of how the culture of UNM has to change, to get used to privatization. One solution they give to get more funding for economic development initiatives is to create endowed chairs. Mention is made of the Public Service Company endowed chair in microsystems and commercialization, then filled by Andy Salazar. Microsystems have much earning potential, but costly in research, with lot of risk. Having public universities fund this research, the companies take no risk, and are ensured gain when they bring these tools to market. Endowed chais bring name recognition, and with it funding. The New Mexico Legislature authorized $10 million in 2001 for the endowment of faculty chairs at UNM, New Mexico State University, and New Mexico Tech, with the stipulation that matching funding would be raised from the private sector. Even liberal Democrat state rep. Gail Beam, representing the university area of Albuquerque, is supportive of putting universities in service to business.
Garcia, who was then an interim president, looks to the then future presidential search for UNM, which is usually a big fiasco. He states he is confident that the next president will have economic development in mind.
There is nothing wrong with public institutions getting involved in economic development. A further version of this would likely be called socialism. An economy based on human needs. Yet the economic development work the universities are called to do more often than not benefit private capitalist interests. They will do nothing to alleviate poverty in their own state, or the world even. They serve the interests of capitalism and imperialism. Only a democratic economy can bring equal incentives to everyone.
*Named after Robert O. Anderson, former chairman and CEO of Atlantic Richfield (aka ARCO), founder of Hondo Oil & Gas Co., and resident of Roswell. (source: “Anderson at Anderson.” Albuquerque Journal. April 7, 1997. Pg D5.
Smith, Howard L. “A View From the Tower: A Leader Emerges.” New Mexico Business Journal, Online. November 1999. Volume 23, Number 9. http://www.nmbiz.com/issues/99/99_november/tower.htm (accessed 5/11/2000)
Anderson, Shea. “Jumping Into The Mix: UNM Aims To Give The State A Major Assist In Helping Spur The Economy.” Albuquerque Tribune. December 2, 2002. Pg. B1, B3, B10
In January 2003, just over a month after Shama was appointed, he was then replaced as UNM’s economic development advisor. His replacement was John Young, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at UNM’s Anderson School of Management, and would then on be the point person for economic development. He was director of the Small Business Institute Program, which helped with small business development through UNM. In 1990 he received the Excellence for Albuquerque’s Economy Award from the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce; received the 1997-1998 University Program of the Year Award from the Entrepreneurial Education Foundation of Denver and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership of Kansas City, MO. As we have seen before business and the university is increasingly connected.
Salem, Nancy. “UNM Shakes Up Economic Development Spot.” Albuquerque Tribune. January 29, 2003. pg. B6.