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FARMINGTON — San Juan College officials hosted an open house this week for a new shared work area they hope students and community members will use to build their ideas into businesses.entrepreneurs

The college held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for The Big Idea @ SJC, a 3,000-square-foot shared workspace in the Quality Center for Business building.

The goal of the program is to provide access to equipment for people to design or test ideas that could become future products sold in stores.

"This will help foster our entrepreneurial ecosystem that we have in our community," San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass told The Daily Times.

Pendergrass told the crowd the space has new equipment, including high-end CNC machining equipment, 3D printers and a station for robotics.

Those attending got to examine that equipment up close. Volunteers were on hand to answer questions.

More than $350,0000 was raised to purchase equipment and renovate the space.

"The purpose of this space is to build our economy," said Melissa Meechan, director of the Four Corners Power Initiative at San Juan College.

During the ceremony, Pendergrass referenced the television show "Shark Tank."

The reality show showcases presentations made to a panel of potential business partners, with the guests seeking funding to grow their business.

Pendergrass said the next big product could be something prototyped or designed in the new makerspace that goes on to fuel a local business — and possibly even appear on that reality show.

"We really want to use this makerspace to catalyze investments for existing businesses and for their current and new markets," Pendergrass aid. "Or for anyone that has an idea about a product or prototype we can make right here in this makerspace."

Drexel University, a private university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was one of the partners who helped San Juan College develop the space.

Officials have also been developing workshops, classes and training to be offered in the space to teach students or community members how to use the tools and equipment.

"You can be working a full-time job somewhere else and be building your dream here on the side," Meechan said. "Here you can come on Saturday morning and start creating the next item that you know will be the big thing."

Members of the community can sign up for membership to gain access to The Big Idea @ SJC.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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