Olivia Padilla-Jackson speaking to class

Closing the Gaps: Questions and Answers

City Alive Aligned Contributions, Connecting People and Places, Entrepreneurship

Closing the Gaps: Questions and Answers

An Interview with Integration Initiative I3 member, Olivia Padilla-Jackson, Deputy Director of Finance and Administration at the City of Albuquerque

“There’s something special about this place. We’ve got this positive energy and excitement about the collaboration that’s going on with ABQLC and other organizations around Albuquerque. It just feels different to me, and it’s that spirit that will carry us forward.” Olivia Padilla-Jackson, Deputy Director of Finance and Administration, City of Albuquerque

Olivia Padilla-Jackson, I3 Table Member and Deputy Director of Finance and Administration with the City of Albuquerque, is a question person. She has to be, she says, to do a job that is focused so much around data. She admits that she’s always been a big-picture person, and that means asking big questions with often bigger answers.

“There’s power in asking the right questions,” says Olivia, especially when you’re dealing with such big and important goals. “We’re looking at everything from jobs and permits to people’s experiences to try to paint a big picture of what is actually happening. That’s why asking the right question – an informed one that’s framed properly – is so important. It can lead to the right solution.” It’s one thing ABQLC is really good at, Olivia says, and one thing that makes her hopeful that economic change in Albuquerque is achievable, even if it seems overwhelming at times. And it’s a key part of the initiative’s goal to increase home-grown jobs and household income in Albuquerque.

It’s also why collaboration is so important. It creates an opportunity to collect new questions and new solutions from many different sources, and Olivia is glad to see more of Albuquerque’s large organizations coming together to work with ABQLC and other initiatives that are helping to create economic change.

“ABQLC has really helped contribute to the spirit of collaboration in a city that traditionally has not seen a lot of large organizations working together,” Olivia says. “Collaboration is so important because our economy has been slower to rebound and we face some serious challenges in the areas of employment, poverty, and education. It’ll take all of us to accomplish our goals.”

This year, the City of Albuquerque is working to support Albuquerque’s entrepreneurs by following long-standing economic advice: buy local. The City is hoping to buy key products already purchased by CABQ from local vendors and to be more transparent about where their purchases are coming from. “It’s a big opportunity. A lot of what we buy already can be purchased locally,” says Olivia. The City is planning to spend more of its $500 million total operating budget buying from local entrepreneurs this year, making sure that a significant portion goes to women and minority owned businesses.

And while Olivia acknowledges that the buy local initiative in itself is “not the answer for entrepreneurs, it’s just one tool in the toolbox,” one thing she hasn’t questioned is Albuquerque’s ability to create change with data, collaboration and a little patience.

“It’s going to take some time,” says Olivia. “We understand these challenges, but most of the people that I know love being here. The positive energy, excitement, and all the collaboration is just what we need to gain some momentum to improve these numbers. I’m realist – It’ll be slow, but with the right questions I think we will start to see a difference.”

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