Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

New Mexico State leaders held a press conference at New Mexico Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Center, to praise the business facility receiving $1.875 million in federal funding from the Department of Commerce. The federal funds will guarantee that the MBDA, located in Barelas, will be financially secure for the next five years.

Senator Martin Heinrich and Senator Ben Ray Lujan were in attendance along with Representative Melanie Stansbury and Mayor Tim Keller.

“We know that Albuquerque should have a nationwide leading minority business community. And unfortunately, that is not the case,” Mayor Keller noted. “The one place where we should not have that disparity in America should be Albuquerque, New Mexico, but we’re behind in this regard. And that’s why this center is so important because it is going to help us catch up. And it’s going to make us a national leader when it comes to supporting local minority owned businesses,” the mayor added.

Since opening during the pandemic, the facility has assisted more than 200 minority businesses.

“We have been extremely successful with assisting over 200 minority-owned businesses. To this, and since July 1, the beginning of our grant period, was supported with over $25 million in contracts. So due to our consistent success, we were recently awarded a $1.875 million grant from the US Department of Commerce and VDA,” Minority Business Development Agency Director Gabriella Marquez said.

Senator Ben Ray Lujan was welcomed back after a stroke earlier this year.

“In New Mexico, minority-owned and operated businesses play a vital role in our communities, acting as the engine that keeps our economy moving,” Senator Lujan said. “That’s why I’m honored to congratulate the City of Albuquerque on this opportunity to operate the New Mexico Minority Business Development Center, and strengthen their vital work to deliver services and support to businesses across our state.”

Senator Heinrich emphasized the importance of both the state and city supporting small businesses. “Minority-owned businesses in New Mexico deserve tailored assistance. That’s why I fought so hard to pass legislation and open up funding at the federal level to make this new center a reality,” Senator Heinrich said. “I’m proud to see these efforts come full circle. Because for the past two years, New Mexico small business owners have had to deal with navigating the pandemic. Now, with the opening of the New Mexico Minority Business Development Center, minority-owned businesses will be navigating success.”

Representative Stansbury, raised in a household supported by her family’s small business, touted the investment as a critical step in the right direction for the city and the state. “Our small businesses and particularly our small minority-owned businesses are the backbone of our economy and the backbone of our communities. They employ our families, they help to create the cultural fabric that is our communities, and ultimately, our building that future that we pass down to our children and leave behind us. It’s not just about now, but also about the legacy that we leave behind,” Rep. Stansbury said.