Synthia Jaramillo: Our Businesses Need to Reflect Our City’s Diversity

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Our Businesses Need to Reflect Our City’s Diversity

By Synthia Jaramillo, Director of Economic Development, City of Albuquerque | September 27, 2018

As a state with a majority of people of color, we need to do things differently than everywhere else.Synthia Jaramillo, Director of Economic Development, CABQ

Albuquerque’s rich history and cultural diversity are unrivaled—they are what make us special. And as the City of Albuquerque’s first woman and first Latina Economic Development Director, it’s an honor to be part of this history.

When Mayor Keller appointed me as the City of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Director, I knew my mission was clear: to build an economy that works for everyone. This year the Economic Development Department is focused on bringing everyone to the table to recognize the uniqueness of our city and state—and share it with the world. That starts by leading with our cultural identities and history.

Six in ten Albuquerque residents are people of color, and we’re growing even more diverse. At the City, we’re making sure our economic development efforts are reflective of the community we’re serving. Our residents deserve opportunities that give them a chance to get ahead. But in order to do so, we must understand the makeup of our community.

Many people of color in Albuquerque work full-time jobs but still live below the poverty line. We know that economies are strongest when everyone succeeds—especially those who have been historically left out. When everyone has access to the resources they need, we can create a stronger economy than if we’re just catering to a select few. We’re applying these principles to our economic development strategies in multiple ways:

We’re working on opening a new office that connects local businesses with a variety of resources including navigating city bureaucracy, finding capital, and participating in economic incentive programs. Because people of color own 40% of the small businesses in Albuquerque, these initiatives will undoubtedly benefit companies owned by women and people of color, which have had a more difficult time accessing these resources.

We’re also working with our Purchasing and Finance Departments to do more business locally. This includes efforts to track how we’re doing business with historically under-represented groups. One of the steps we’ve taken has been updating our W-9 form so when a new vendor signs up we can track that information and ensure we’re making opportunities equally available to more under-represented entrepreneurs.

These initiatives are happening in alignment with our community partners, including City Alive. As a collective impact initiative, City Alive has played a critical role in identifying the gaps and assets available across Albuquerque’s ecosystem to address job creation and economic mobility.

One of the exciting new developments this year is our push to take Albuquerque’s assets global—both our economy and our culture. We are increasing our ties to our sister cities in Guadalajara and Chihuahua, Mexico, in an effort to strengthen the many economic and cultural relationships that enrich our cities. The Sunport recently announced a direct flight to Guadalajara, which will be the first direct international flight from Albuquerque in over 8 years. This flight will be a game changer for international tourism and trade. Direct flights to and from Guadalajara will begin in November for as low as $285 round-trip.

We will also re-establish the bilateral commission between Albuquerque and Chihuahua. Mayor Tim Keller and Mayor Maria Eugenia Campos Galvan met during the 2018 Mexico-U.S. Sister Cities Mayors Summit to discuss efforts to re-establish the commission. Now we’re making it a reality. Together, the cities of Albuquerque and Chihuahua will establish a framework to develop programs of mutual benefit to promote cooperation across economic development, tourism, public safety, education and cultural exchange.

I believe that Albuquerque has everything it needs, right here and right now, to establish a healthy, equitable economy. By working across sectors and political boundaries, as One Albuquerque, we can cultivate local, homegrown businesses—and share them across the world. It’s an exciting time and I’m honored to be serving this city that I love.


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