Volume 61, 2012. Retrieved online April 5, 2013 by Janet Perez, Aggie Panorama
Hitting the Mark
New Mexico State University is committed to being an economic development engine for the entire state, and nowhere is that commitment more evident than at the Arrowhead Center and the Arrowhead Research Park.
“I see us as a broker, if you will, to create this regional innovation ecosystem playing off the strengths of the university and trying to bring everybody to the table that can contribute to that,” says Pamela Wood, director of the Arrowhead Research Park. “Alumni are very critical to all of this.”
Among the NMSU alumni and supporters working to make sure NMSU reaches out to the community as an economic driver are the four individuals who make up the Arrowhead Development Company, which is developing the research park.
Arrowhead Development, a private firm that is not part of the Arrowhead Center, was created by Lee Atchison, Mickey Clute ’69, Armand Smith and Danny Villanueva ’61 ’99.
In January 2007, the NMSU Board of Regents agreed to lease land at the research park to the Arrowhead Center for development. The Arrowhead Center is a corporation operated by NMSU in which students and faculty work to promote economic development through teaching, research and service. After meeting with several developers, Arrowhead Center officials chose Arrowhead Development to design, build, lease and manage buildings on 11 of the 200 acres that make up the research park. A portion of the rent on the leased buildings goes to NMSU.
In 2010, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the Arrowhead Center a $1.5 million grant for infrastructure improvements to the Arrowhead Research Park and to expand the newly created Arrowhead Drive.
“It really is a public-private partnership in that risk is shared,” says Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business and vice president for economic development. “The development occurs according to market demand and buildings are built based on that demand. Arrowhead Center receives a return when Arrowhead Development leases the buildings. Mickey and Danny are great supporters of NMSU and as loyal alumni they wanted to make this investment in the future.”
Indeed, all four partners in Arrowhead Development put their own money on the line as the Great Recession was looming in order to make the research park a success.
“Because of the strength of the partners, we were able to do those first projects without borrowing any money,” Clute says. “Had you tried to get loans at that time for speculative building on lease land from a university you probably wouldn’t have gotten any.”
Since signing on as developers of the Arrowhead Research Park, Arrowhead Development has built and leased buildings for General Dynamics C4 Systems — the company’s second building on the site — the U.S. Geological Survey and five more buildings for the Arrowhead Park Early College High School complex. Clute said work on another flex space building would begin next year.
“The park is trying to establish several Centers of Excellence over a period of time,” Clute says. “Obviously, NMSU can only establish them when the university itself has the appropriate faculty and staff to do it. Unmanned aerial vehicles is one area and certainly biofuels and computer technology have potential.
“What we do is tailor what we’re going to build at the park to accommodate those industries if and when they show up,” Clute continues. “Our job is to keep a little bit of inventory out there for someone to come into, and at the same time be ready to expand what we’re doing to accommodate a larger user that would be attracted to the park.”
Arrowhead Development proved to be the jump-start the research park needed. It had been eight years after General Dynamics moved into the only building at the park in 2001 before any new activity took place.
“We told Dean Carruthers that if we went in there, we were not going to let it sit for eight more years,” Villanueva says. “We were going to really focus on developing the park.”
In 2011, Arrowhead Development hit a milestone in that it became cash-flow positive for the first time. That triggered another windfall for NMSU.
“As part of what we’re doing, we are trying to put about 5 percent of net profit back into the school as a gift in order to help the Arrowhead Center in its entrepreneurial efforts,” Clute says. “It goes to whatever they want to use it for.”
Arrowhead Development’s goal is to get a big name, Fortune 500 tenant at the research park that will act as a beacon for other major companies. That, in turn, will provide research and employment opportunities not just to NMSU students, but also to residents throughout the region.
“In private equity we call them a bell cow,” Villanueva says. “We need a bell cow. We need to get that major icon tenant out there and the others will follow.”
Innovation Den creates a community of young entrepreneurs
By Janet Perez
Students at New Mexico State University have iPads, iPhones and iPods. Now they also have an iDen.
The Colleges of Business and Engineering, along with the Arrowhead Center, have joined forces to create a new Living Learning Community at NMSU that’s devoted to fostering young entrepreneurs. Called Innovation Den — or iDen for short — it is open to students of all majors in recognition of the fact that entrepreneurs come from every walk of life.
iDen launched in February and the community began operating out of Garcia East at the start of the fall semester. Students at iDen will have the opportunity to compete in innovation challenges, learn about venture creation, connect to Studio G, network with local entrepreneurs and receive support from the NMSU Entrepreneurship Institute at the Arrowhead Center.
“It’s a really exciting concept,” says Michelle Bernstein, assistant director of residential education and assessment at NMSU. “There are no entrepreneurship LLCs out there in the state, so we’re sort of out there on the cutting edge.”
Living Learning Communities are made up of groups of students who live together in residence halls based on common interests. The communities have peer advisers and residential mentors working with each group to provide academic support. There are currently 11 Living Learning Communities at NMSU.
The concept behind iDen was developed by Kevin Boberg, associate dean and director for research and economic development for the NMSU College of Business. He also serves as CEO and director of the Arrowhead Center.
“He has a really big vision for it,” Bernstein says. “We have a really big vision for it. We think this is something that can have a major impact on our campus.”
Along with interacting with peers who share the same entrepreneurial spirit, the students at iDen will periodically hear presentations and possibly even receive mentoring from local business owners, including NMSU alumni, says Marie Borchert, education specialist at the Arrowhead Center.
“It really is something that is attracting attention as a new program,” she says. “The potential for doing some really fun and exciting things with these students is really fantastic.”