Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Mexico, U.S. join to assist businesses

Start-up companies looking for help with commercializing their latest and greatest technology will have a new, 5,000-square-foot ally along the state’s border with Mexico.

The Bi-National Sustainability Laboratory in Santa Teresa will offer financial assistance, limited laboratory space, office space and institutional partnerships to high-tech companies in an attempt to spur economic development along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The lab – scheduled to be announced today – is a joint project between New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas and six Mexican states. It will partner with the national laboratories in New Mexico as well as laboratories, research universities, entrepreneurs, businesses and public organizations from the United States and Mexico.

“The fundamental idea is that we have these really huge challenges on the border dealing with the environment, with energy, with water, with homeland security. We should target our technology resources . . . in all the border states toward developing solutions to these challenges in the form of new companies that will create new jobs,” said Rick Homans, secretary of the state’s Economic Development Department. “It’s a huge idea and that will probably take years and years to build it out.”

To get the project rolling, Gov. Bill Richardson committed $100,000, the government of Mexico contributed $400,000 and the U.S. Economic Development Administration gave another $400,000, Homans said.

“This will start small and it will grow bit by bit,” he said. “A project like this, once you get it going . . . suddenly it attracts a lot more attention from potential funders and investors from both countries.”

As the project expands, more facilities could come on line in other states and Mexico, Homans said. It could also expand as a virtual network of participants held together by communication technologies.

The idea began in 2001 with Gerold Yonas, principal scientist with the Advanced Concepts Group think tank at Sandia National Laboratories, Homans said. In 2003, Homans said, Richardson met with Mexican President Vicente Fox and the project moved further along.

* This article was written and reported with my colleague at the time, Kate Nash.

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