Collaboration Aims to Streamline Funding for Economic Development Projects

By Antoinette Vigil, Finance Development Team Leader, New Mexico Economic Development Department

By Antoinette Vigil, Finance Development Team Leader, New Mexico Economic Development Department

When a New Mexico community wants to undertake a project for downtown revitalization, business incubation, housing or infrastructure, backers often don’t know where to look for financing and are easily discouraged or intimidated by the maze of government agencies they have to navigate.

The state addressed this problem in the “rural renaissance” platform of its five-year economic development plan, unveiled in 2013, by creating New Mexico FundIt — a federal-state partnership that aims to be a one-stop source of start-to-finish financing for projects that will help with infrastructure development, job creation and small-business development.

Through FundIt, communities can vet their development proposals before multiple state and federal infrastructure funding agencies at the same time. Representatives of these agencies make up a review panel whose members collectively analyze proposals and direct the most feasible ones to stay on a continual track to financing.

The Panel and Its Work

The FundIt panel convened by Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela includes representatives from state agencies (the New Mexico Department of Transportation, Environment Department, and Department of Finance and Administration) and quasi-public entities like the New Mexico Finance Authority, which finances infrastructure projects, and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, which finances housing and related services that benefit low- to moderate-income residents. Three federal agencies — the Small Business Administration, Department of Agriculture and Department of Housing and Urban Development — bring projects to the table, as do regional representatives of the Economic Development Department, the state councils of governments and the New Mexico MainStreet program.

At the quarterly meeting, projects are presented and FundIt panel members offer comments or direction.  If the project is ready to proceed, a panel representative can take it back to his or her agency to assist with the application, achievement of the funding source’s criteria, or processing. The overarching goal it to keep the projects moving and help communities fund their economic development projects from start to finish in a way that makes the most efficient use of tax dollars. A complementary goal is to provide a pipeline of projects that will be tracked to evaluate or quantify various fiscal impacts or gaps in programs.

FundIt is especially useful as a way to coordinate funding for projects that require multiple sources of money.

Looking Forward

The FundIt working group plans to create an intake form that summarizes the specifics of each project it considers. The form will help panelists identify the funding gap and suggest what funding sources might apply.

The types of projects that are a natural fit for FundIt fit five general categories. They are business development, such as business incubators and industrial parks; community development, such as feasibility studies, comprehensive plans and asset mapping; infrastructure development that increases capacity, which might mean updating or replacing what exists; housing projects that increase capacity and availability; and downtown redevelopment, such as revitalization projects in downtowns and adjacent neighborhoods.

For more information on the FundIt program, contact Atlantis Duran at the New Mexico Economic Development Department at 505-827-2128.

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