30 Faces of WESST – November
While she served as WESST’s Development Director for only 3 years, Nancy Mahoney made a huge impact on WESST’s future. While developing a very successful track record as a grant writer and fundraiser, it was also Nancy’s vision for WESST to develop a bricks-and-mortar small business incubator. In 2003, Nancy spearheaded efforts for WESST to successfully apply to the City of Albuquerque for grant funds to purchase the land on which the WESST Enterprise Center now sits. Committed to locating the incubator in a strategic location, Nancy approached Martineztown advocate Frank Martinez early on to solicit his support of the WEC. Soon thereafter, Mahoney managed a community input process whereby WESST could explain its vision for the WEC and garner broad community support for moving forward.
In 2005, Nancy relocated with her family to Montana where she now resides. “I’m not sure the WEC would have ever become a reality had it not been for Nancy’s forward-looking vision for WESST. As a can-do person who never took no for an answer, WESST owes a big debt of gratitude to Nancy for her ability to dream big. The WEC’s legacy of job creation and successful start-ups is testament to Nancy’s thinking outside the box,” says President Agnes Noonan. “We were so fortunate to have her on board during one of the most opportune moments in WESST’s history.”
Belinda Jentzen stepped in as WESST’s Development Director in 2005 to help spearhead WESST’s $10 million capital campaign for the WESST Enterprise Center. With a multi-prong strategy for sources of funding, Belinda worked closely with the U.S. Economic Development Administration which eventually led to a total EDA investment of $2.5 million.
Perhaps Belinda’s biggest contribution was the tireless work she engaged in with New Mexico state legislators and the Office of the Governor. Determined to “paint the vision” for the WEC, she invited legislators to meet with her in the now demolished warehouse building that used to sit on the WEC site. Armed with a drawing of the architect’s vision for the WEC, Belinda briefed legislators about the vision for the WEC and how its development could spur job creation in one of Albuquerque’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
Legislators were convinced and ultimately, the WEC received $4.5 million in state capital outlay funds over a three-year period. Belinda’s tenacity drove the results with the WEC opening for business in January, 2009. Now retired and living in Santa Fe, Jentzen “was the right person at the right time,” says WESST President Agnes Noonan. “Our goal was to raise the capital for the building so WESST wouldn’t be saddled with a large mortgage. Due to Belinda’s efforts and Nancy Mahoney’s before her, we did it!”
Fred Mondragon will never forget a field visit to the EDA offices in Austin in 2005. Accompanying WESST President Agnes Noonan and Development Director Nancy Mahoney and her 3 month-old daughter Kaylie, Mondragon was then serving as the City of Albuquerque’s Director of Economic Development. WESST had applied for a large EDA grant for construction of the WESST Enterprise Center (WEC) and the happy trio traveled to Austin to make a presentation about the project to EDA Director Pedro Garza and his staff.
WESST was ultimately awarded a total of $2.5 million in EDA funds, but not before that entertaining trip which included a 10 minute frisking of Kaylie when passing through airport security and a building fire drill at EDA offices during the middle of WESST’s presentation. The presentation was never completed, but EDA was all-in about the project.
Mondragon has enjoyed a long and eclectic career in Hospital Administration (UNMH and Presbyterian), City Administration, Systems Development and Integration (BDM/TRW), and Economic Development (City and State). Now semi-retired, he serves on several Boards, including his recent appointment to the Albuquerque Development Commission. He is also devoting a lot of his time to promoting Cooperative Business Ecosystem Development, particularly through a statewide organization called the Cooperative Catalyst. He lives with his wife Connie Vance in Albuquerque.
“WESST has long been an inspiration to me due to its determined, successful commitment to establishing and growing small businesses. By so doing, they are elevating the economic level of minorities and women and helping address the community’s income gaps,” says Mondragon. Noonan is particularly grateful for Fred’s willingness to assist multiple economic development groups toward their respective missions. “Fred is a New Mexico treasure – he’s always willing to use his knowledge and contacts to advance worthy causes. His willingness to accompany us to Austin is testament to that. WESST and the State of New Mexico have been the real beneficiaries.”
CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE
WESST has enjoyed a long-time partnership with the City of Albuquerque. In 1995, WESST was awarded a $250,000 grant from the City’s UDAG fund to establish a loan fund for residents and businesses located in Albuquerque’s low-income neighborhoods (initially referred to as the Pocket of Poverty). The fund has since lent nearly $1 million to 53 businesses and it continues to be an important and inexpensive source of capital for Pocket businesses.
In the early 2000’s, WESST applied for another City grant which was used to purchase the land on which the WESST Enterprise Center (WEC) now sits. This initial step toward the construction of the WEC subsequently led to WESST and CABQ partnering for the next 5 years as WESST sought to establish Downtown Albuquerque’s first mixed use certified business incubator in the historic Martineztown neighborhood.
Total construction costs of the WEC were close to $10 million and the City was instrumental in helping to leverage state capital outlay funds as well as significant support from the federal Economic Development Administration and the private sector.
The WEC is a LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) project with a mission of housing start-up businesses with the capacity to grow and create jobs. Since its opening in 2009, WEC companies have generated over $120.8 million in gross revenues, $54.5 million in payroll and created 385 new jobs.
The City of Albuquerque has also supported WESST’s IDA program over the years as well as provided grant support to deliver WESST’s core services of training, consulting and lending to special target populations.
“WESST is so proud of its long and successful history with the City,” says Agnes Noonan. “It’s been a true partnership in so many different ways and the beneficiaries have been local, small businesses here in the greater Albuquerque area. We’ve been blessed.”
To go back to the WESST Celebrates 30 Years of Impact Page click HERE.