Events aim to help innovators, small business
FARMINGTON — To highlight the importance of manufacturing to New Mexico’s economy, companies across the state are organizing events for Manufacturing Day, a national effort to promote interest in modern manufacturing careers.
Although Manufacturing Day is the first Friday in October, events sponsored by the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership are happening around the state throughout the entire month.
Two local events will take place this week in conjunction with Manufacturing Day: a Bloomfield innovation fair and the Eureka Effect, a chance for businesses to run their ideas by scientists from several national laboratories.
The Bloomfield Invents Innovation Fair on Tuesday at the Bloomfield Multicultural Center will allow entrepreneurs and inventors to demonstrate their products, services and inventions.
Participants can also network with manufacturers and business leaders to get their idea or invention noticed. Officials will discuss the advantages of forming co-ops to achieve goals, and hands-on activities for students will be available.
The fair is the result of brainstorming by a group of "thought leaders," said organizer Evert Oldham, area specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group has been meeting for the past three years and analyzing how to close the gap between service and resource providers and the people they serve.
"Many of us haven’t been happy with the quality of services," Oldham said. "Processes are outmoded, and we need to stop this crazy spending on public systems that are outdated. By looking at patterns that are already set up and by modernizing the conversation, we can have a positive impact on the quality of service in the county."
Oldham said the group has also been developing a data system that would eventually be available online as a clearinghouse for connecting resources and services with those who need them.
"There are lots of programs, but no one’s talking to each other. There’s no memory of what’s already been done or what’s been provided," said Oldham, adding that the data system would be "kind of like Facebook for grown-ups, but without the burden of all the extras like advertisements."
Oldham and his group hope this data system and other measures will further help innovators and those with unique ideas bring their dreams to fruition. He said the plan is to also develop an "invention assembly line" to facilitate and streamline collaboration between innovators and those who can help bring their ideas to life.
Another Manufacturing Day event will take place Thursday at San Juan College’s School of Energy.
The Eureka Effect will be similar to a speed dating night, but instead of potential romantic partners, participants will visit with scientists from Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, said Sally Burbridge, interim co-CEO for Four Corners Economic Development.
"The intent is to take local business owners, managers or anyone who just has an idea about a business or process and give them a few minutes with a scientist to pitch their idea,” she said.
If the scientists deem their ideas worth pursuing, participants will have the chance to receive up to $20,000 in free technical assistance from the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program.
"It’s based on a standard speed-dating method," Burbridge said. "We will match pre-registered participants with the appropriate scientists in that field, and they can then pitch their ideas to the scientists, who will switch tables every seven minutes. Afterward, depending on their idea, they can then move into the next round to be considered for the financial assistance."
Burbridge said many people with ideas don’t know where to start exploring the feasibility of those ideas and would never have the chance to go to a national laboratory to seek assistance from experts.
"This event provides a resource with knowledge, expertise, and the backing of national laboratories," she said. "It’s bringing the scientists to our own home and saying, 'Hey, here’s an opportunity to apply these resources, and maybe start a new business.'"
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor of The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.
Bloomfield Invents Innovation Fair
When: Noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Gym at Bloomfield Multicultural Center, 520 N. First St. in Bloomfield
Information: Denise Williams at 505-860-9961 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: 5:15 p.m. Thursday
Where: San Juan College School of Energy, 5301 College Blvd. in Farmington
Find out more information about Manufacturing Day events at newmexicomep.org/mfgday.