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Funding comes from state, federal governments

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FARMINGTON — San Juan College has received a new $50,000 state grant to help the San Juan College Enterprise Center facilitate business startups in the outdoor recreation industry.

Grants announced Dec. 2 from the New Mexico Economic Development Department's Outdoor Recreation Division are the first ones ever awarded by the state to business startup organizations aimed at growing New Mexico’s outdoor economy through curriculum development and other support services.

The state grant adds to the college's existing three-year, $387,777 federal grant that was announced in August and began in October. The federal grant specifically funds the nuts and bolts of business startups, such as taking a product from a concept to the marketplace. 

“The exciting thing is that people are recognizing that you can’t do economic development without putting something into it,” Enterprise Center Director Judy Castleberry said Dec. 2.

“The general idea is that these two things can work together because they’re about outdoor recreation,” Castleberry said of the grants.

State grant supports marketing and curriculum

Staff members at the college described their plan for the state money in an application to the state that focused on the college’s new maker space facility to support development of new businesses and new outdoor equipment.

They said they’d use the grant money to “build on The Big Idea Innovation Accelerator by supporting experience-based new businesses. This program will focus on helping to establish these businesses."

Specifically, the state cash would go to building “entrepreneurial curriculum, mentoring, marketing consulting, as well as office space rental for early stage businesses,” according to the state’s press release.

The other $50,000 state grant went to Creative Startups, a nonprofit organization that helped launch the Meow Wolf museum in Santa Fe. It hopes to help new businesses begin in as many as 12 rural communities. The organization works with 24 rural libraries in the state and plans to expand those programs.

“We expand resources and capacity in libraries by providing librarian training, purchasing equipment, and collections, and building connection between library staff and regional small business services. To date we have trained 62 entrepreneurs in 17 rural and tribal libraries,” Creative Startups staff said in its grant application.

In addition to its work in New Mexico, Creative Startups also runs business accelerator programs in North Carolina, Baltimore, Kuwait and Malaysia.

Federal grant to boost business startups

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in October announced the start of federal grant funding totaling $23 million to groups and colleges across the country “to create and expand high-growth entrepreneurship and increase access to capital for communities across America,” the college said Nov. 19 on its website.

San Juan College was among 44 federal grant recipients for programs that promote entrepreneurship.

“San Juan College will launch the Big Idea Innovation Accelerator at the newly opened makerspace, The Big Idea @ SJC with the $387,777 federal grant funding over the next three years,” the college stated. “The Accelerator will assist entrepreneurs, researchers, and inventors to move outdoor recreation products from concept to commercialization by filling the knowledge and resource gap with expertise in taking a product to market.”

The college plans to hire a specialist to act as a consultant to the entrepreneurs, and has set a goal of helping launch and support 20 companies and 20 products during the grant period, and more thereafter.

Governor touts direct investment

"My administration is clear that the outdoor recreation industry has incredible potential to grow and diversify New Mexico's economy," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in the state’s release. "Direct investment in local outdoor recreation businesses will jump-start their growth and expansion, creating jobs and supporting the industry as it further develops."

State officials chimed in with their support of the new state grant program.

“These grants are the first step to assist small business owners and communities with the tools they need to open up and grow outdoor recreation businesses,” added Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes.

The governor signed a bill to create the Outdoor Recreation Division on April 2. In doing so, New Mexico became the 13th state to to fund an office dedicated to the task of boosting outdoor businesses and focusing on outdoor recreation issues.

“The Outdoor Recreation Division is proud to support New Mexican entrepreneurs, first and foremost,” Outdoor Recreation Division Director Axie Navas said in the release. “They are the leaders and business professionals who have built our outdoor recreation economy, and their success means the state’s success. Helping these small business owners thrive is a key outdoor-recreation priority of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.”

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e

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