30 Faces of WESST – June
FRANK H. MARTINEZ
Frank Martinez was the first Albuquerque resident WESST visited when the idea for the WESST Enterprise Center was envisioned. Since the plan included building the WEC in the Historic Martineztown neighborhood, WESST placed high value on briefing Martinez and securing his support for the project. A long-time neighborhood activist, Martinez says when WESST approached him about the vision, “it was a Godsend.” When he learned of WESST’s mission to serve the entrepreneurial development needs of women, people of color and low-wealth New Mexicans, he wholeheartedly threw his support behind the project.
As one of 16 children, Martinez was encouraged by his mother to get involved in neighborhood issues in 1970. At the time, Martineztown had been condemned as a blighted slum and residents were being offered $5,000 to abandon their homes and relocate elsewhere. “The neighborhood needs you now,” his mother told him. Soon after, Martinez helped form the Citizens Information Committee of Martineztown (CICM) whose first priority was to protest the Urban Renewal condemnation and develop a long-term Community Plan for the neighborhood. As a result of widespread neighborhood involvement, Martineztown has transformed itself over the past 45 years, creating an eastern gateway to downtown Albuquerque that maintains the residential character of this historic neighborhood. The neighborhood is located at the crossroads of the Camino Real and Tijeras Canyon Trails which is memorialized at Martineztown Park located at Edith and Roma Streets.
During the 5-year design and construction of the WEC, Martinez was a tireless champion for the project, assisting WESST with securing capital outlay funds from the State of NM and the City of Albuquerque. “WESST owes Frank a huge debt of gratitude,” says Agnes Noonan. “His early support paved the way for construction of the WEC and we are so very proud to now be a permanent resident of Martineztown.”
When asked about what’s needed to create a more equitable and inclusive Albuquerque, Martinez cited the growing wealth gap and suggested the country has arrived at a “come to Jesus” point with regards to the distribution of wealth. “We have got to provide opportunities for people to make money and I think entrepreneurship is a big part of the answer. Running your own business provides opportunities for people to be self-determinant,” says Martinez. “Entrepreneurship can not only help level the playing field, but it increases self-worth and provides a pathway to real economic self-sufficiency.”
Martinez is bullish on WESST’s future and looks forward to hearing about WESST alumni who have been able to bridge the wealth gap. “WESST gives you the ability to climb the ladder,” says Martinez “and in so doing creates hope for those who’ve been left out of the economic mainstream.” “I have been so blessed by my friendship with Frank,” says Noonan. His commitment to community, to equity, to diversity and inclusion is beautiful to watch and learn from. When I think of neighborhood advocacy, Frank IS the role model.”
Like many non-profits, WESST has had to rely on external consultants to assist with human resources needs. As the owner of her own small business, Human Resources Works, LLC, “Wendy Shannon has been incredibly supportive,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. Noonan first met Shannon in the 1990s and recruited her to provide HR consulting and advice on a wide range of issues, including personnel policies, performance evaluations and coaching. A Senior Certified Professional by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) with a Masters in Guidance and Counseling from Texas A&M, Shannon has been a familiar face among HR professionals in Albuquerque over the past 30 years. Prior to starting her own firm, she worked with multiple organizations and is a former Director of the State Council of SHRM New Mexico.
Shannon has been an avid supporter of WESST’s mission and purpose and is particularly impressed with WESST’s ongoing commitment to improving current programs and services and designing new, cutting edge services which in turn benefit WESST clients. She applauds the impact WESST has made both in rural and urban parts of the state and believes WESST will continue to serve small businesses of the future with cutting edge services that meet the needs of clients.
At present, Shannon continues to provide consulting and coaching services and has also been doing some personal traveling. Among recent highlights was a month-long trip to China. When asked about the state of the HR sector in the future, Shannon points to the ongoing creation of new employment laws that, in turn, can frequently conflict with existing laws. “HR professionals will have to be more in tune with the constantly changing legal landscape,” notes Shannon.
“WESST owes a huge debt of gratitude to Wendy,” says Noonan. “In addition to considerable services she provided on a pro bono basis, her counsel and advice on challenging HR issues helped me get through some very difficult situations. Even in the face of a challenge, Wendy always brings a smile and a sense of humor to her work which ultimately leads to positive resolution; it has been a pleasure to learn from her.”
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION (EDA)
Planning for the WESST Enterprise Center commenced in 2004. Nancy Mahoney, WESST’s Development Director at the time, was instrumental in forging a vision for the design and construction of a multi-use facility that could house a business incubation program. Shortly thereafter, WESST had the good fortune of meeting Pedro Garza, then the Region VI Director of the EDA office in Austin. After being briefed about WESST’s vision, Garza was all in. Supporting an initial EDA grant of $300,00 for design expenses, the Agency subsequently approved a $1.25 million construction grant for the primary part of the WEC and a follow-on grant in 2010 to support the build-out of the East Wing and the digital media studio.
Instrumental to WESST’s successful EDA relationship was Ann Simon, long-time planner with the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG). A visionary herself, Simon was one of the first champions of the WEC project who tirelessly worked with WESST staff to eventually secure the EDA funding. “When I heard that a business development and lending organization serving women and diverse communities wanted to build a business incubator in downtown Albuquerque, I was all in. Although I was pretty new at the MRCOG and hadn’t done a large capital/construction project yet, I was excited to try my best, dig in, and learn a few things along the way,” says Simon. “It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know the hard-working WESST staff and even harder-working WESST entrepreneurs. I’m so happy I had even the smallest part in getting the organization to this 30-Year Anniversary milestone. Congratulations on the many lives you have changed and all you’ve accomplished.”
As with any successful partnership, WESST has benefitted tremendously over the years from hardworking and committed EDA staff with a special shout-out to Trisha Korbas and Dave Culbertson. Their support in helping the WEC vision become a reality has been invaluable. “We are so incredibly grateful for EDA’s support,” says Agnes Noonan. “Their investment in the WEC helped us leverage another $8.0 million in public and private funds and complete construction debt-free. We continue to enjoy a great partnership with EDA with a multi-year grant awarded in late 2018 to support craft entrepreneurship and job creation in rural New Mexico.”
Notes current Regional Director of EDA, Jorge Ayala, “EDA has been a partner of WESST for almost 15 years. Their goal of aiding entrepreneurship and building new businesses in economically distressed areas of Albuquerque and New Mexico are perfectly aligned with the mission of EDA. During this partnership, EDA has invested $2.6 million in funding for architectural and engineering design, incubator construction and technical assistance to entrepreneurs. It is wonderful to see how WESST has been able to leverage these investments into strong small businesses, new jobs and improved quality of life. Congratulations on 30 years of fostering Entrepreneurship in New Mexico!
To go back to the WESST Celebrates 30 Years of Impact Page click HERE.