(part 4 of 5)
Last time we left off in this story of Larry Willard, we mentioned his time in the Next Generation Economy nonprofit. This was the who’s who of the power elite in New Mexico, directing the future of the state’s economic policies. A collaboration of industry, venture capital, universities, and the national labs to direct government to fund private industries. Next Gen called these industries “clusters,” and identified a handful in Albuquerque that they attempted to direct government agencies to help expand.
We can see where Willard stood in all this in one event he was involved in, where he presided over the “gift” by Intel of decommissioned equipment donated to Next Gen back in 2003.
In February of that year Intel Corp. announced its donation of $17.5 million worth of chip making equipment over to Next Gen. As part of its cluster strategy, Next Gen wanted to aid microelectronics companies in the area, and wanted to set up a publicly funded factory to aid them. This donation furthered that agenda, as the old equipment would be used by these start-up companies.
Here is what the Journal reported at the time:
“The equipment, which would be used by startup microelectronics companies through contracts with Next Generation, could spell the beginning of a new manufacturing industry in New Mexico, Intel and Next Generation said.
“We have a vision and it is to be the global center of the microelectronics industry right her in Albuquerque,” said Larry Willard, chief executive of Wells Fargo Bank in New Mexico and chairman of Next Generation’s board of directors. “My goodness, what can you say except thank you to Intel.” (1)
So here is what Next Gen got from Intel: 74 truck-size pieces of equipment, also called “tools,” that the computer chip maker used to make microprocessors. They came from its former Fab 7 factory at its Rio Rancho plant, and decommissioned after the company finished its $2 billion expansion of its Fab 11X factory. Of these tools Next Gen planned to use the majority of them “in a new facility that other companies could use to make micro-size machines and miniature electronics of their own design.”(1) And 17 of the tools would be installed at UNM’s Manufacturing Training and Technology Center. This was also the site Willard and Next Gen had their press conference that day.
It is worth looking at the history of the Manufacturing Training and Technology Center at UNM. Intel played a big part of this center too, along with its promotion of micoelectronics. A press release announcing the gift from Intel said this of MTTC: “a south campus facility for teaching, research and development and manufacturing prototyping. Its semiconductor clean room is used to train engineers from UNM and technicians from TVI and other community colleges in semiconductor manufacturing and research.”(2) No wonder Intel is interested in its promotion. In fact their collaboration with UNM went back further.
Back in December 1996 Intel donated $1.7 million worth of semiconductor chip-making equipment to UNM. It would be used in its then under construction MTTC. We all know what Willard would say, my goodness, what can you say except thank you to Intel? But, the center would cost UNM about $700,000 annually to operate.(3) And Intel is there to benefit from the subsidized training, probably writing off in its taxes the old equipment it donated. After all, they got many tax breaks when they moved to New Mexico.
Furthermore, the next month in January 1997 UNM and TVI announced the development of a curriculum specifically aimed at training those entering jobs in the semiconductor industry. The program would use a “clean room” that was also under construction at MTTC. Clean rooms are necessary to manufacture chips because they are super-clean, dust free areas. Student at both schools would use the facility, which was to be used “for research and by private companies.” And both schools announced they would pursue more state and federal funding to operate these facilities where private companies would get the gain. Seems fitting that this facility would be key to promoting Next Gen’s agenda.
These acts were promoted as another success of “public-private partnership.” Another of those nice sounding words. Chomsky would probably have something to say on that phrase, and I’m no linguist, but I will try to decipher it. What it really means, as I’ve stated before, is using public resources for private gain. And they admit as much. The Tribune stated about Next Gen and its clusters, “Nearly all the clusters want to assess skill requirements in the industry and work with schools to help train workers, prepare educators and influence curriculum,” and also stated they wanted to look at with the technology clusters “how to make Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico – and their tools and technologies – more accessible.”(4) It saw Science and Technology Corporation as a model, a company set up by UNM that dealt in technology transfer. Next Gen, promoting universities for the benefit of business. Public resources for private gain.
And the potential private gain was enormous. Microsystems in 2003 was a $14 billion industry, estimated to grow $30 billion by 2004, and even more as the years went by. Small tech overall was estimated to approach $1 trillion by 2015. Lots of money involved, but let the public take the risks if it didn’t pay out.
Just a month after the donation, in March 2003, New Mexico was ranked by a publication covering microsystems as number three of ten hotspots for small tech.(5) Small Times, a publication covering micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and nanotechnology, was published bimonthly by Michigan venture capital firm Ardesta LLC and had a circulation of 26,000. Next Gen’s efforts were paying off in terms of publicity.
Small Times also reported that Sandia National Laboratories was then constructing a $400 million facility for cutting edge MEMS research, to compliment the clean room Next Gen was building at UNM’s MTTC. Also mentioned was that the city of Albuquerque had 25 MEMS companies that would be able to use those facilities. The empirical evidence shows the strong collaboration between all these entities, Next Gen included.
*Lenny Martinez, then vice president of manufacturing systems at Sandia National Laboratories, was also serving then as vice president for the microsystems cluster for Next Gen.
*MEMX Inc, a tech transfer company founded in 2000 by former Sandia scientists and TMA Ventures LLC. Its co-founder Paul McWhorter was former deputy director of microsystems at Sandia. An Albuquerque based startup that was developing optical switches for fiber optic networks, MEMX was likely the first to use the donated equipment by Intel
Throughout this Willard was deeply involved. Not only had ties in Next Gen, but was Regent president of UNM at the time too, headed the largest bank in the region, and had large political connections too. Next time, we will explore Willard’s connections with Bill Richardson, and how even Richardson when he became governor leaned on Willard for assistance in economic development.
(end of part 4) (go to part 5==>)
1. Baca, Aaron. “Intel Gift Worth $17.5 Million.” Albuquerque Journal. February 15, 2003. http://www.abqjournal.com/AED/834728bix02-15-03.htm (Accessed July 15, 2003)
2. Press Release. “Intel Presents $17.5 Million in Equipment to Next Generation Economy.” UNM Public Affairs. http://www.unm.edu/news/Releases/03-02-14intel.htm (Accessed July 15, 2003)
3. Juarez Jr., Macario. “UNM, TVI Combine Resources to Train Future Chip-Makers.” Albuquerque Tribune. January 7, 1997. Pg. A3.
4. Robinson, op. cit.
5. Well, Andrew. “Coalition: Small Times Ranking Might Boost New Mexico’s Small Tech Industry.” New Mexico Business Weekly. March 24, 2003. http://albuquerque.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2003/03/24/story1.html (Accessed July 15, 2003)