Part of my job at the Journal is to participate in editorial board discussions, the majority of which, unfortunately, tend to touch on dreadful topics.
We talk about deadly child neglect, guns in schools, inept bureaucracy, political foolishness, and so on. Sure, there are sometimes positives, but the constant scrutiny of issues can leave a reporter jaded about our ability to find solutions.
That’s why it was so gratifying to attend the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the South Valley Social Enterprise Center – a sparkling 14,000 square foot facility at 722 Isleta Boulevard SW.
At its heart, the building houses manufacturing premises and offices. But it is truly a nerve center for the South Valley – a place to cultivate ideas about how to improve the lives, economic situation, political power, educational achievement, health and well-being of the inhabitants. of the South Valley.
In other words, a place imbued with optimism about a better future – with complete trust in the community to shape it.
“We celebrate the concept of what families can achieve when they come together – what workers can achieve when they come together and advocate for change,” said State Representative Javier Martínez, D- Albuquerque and Executive Director of Partnership for Community Action, a grassroots nonprofit that has played a leading role in bringing this collaborative public-private economic development initiative to fruition.
“Economic development in the South Valley doesn’t have to be a Dollar Tree store,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a Sonic drive-in. It doesn’t have to be another liquor store. It doesn’t have to be another huge tax giveaway to big business to create more minimum wage jobs.
‘Two for tango’
The Social Enterprise Center’s first round of funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the Albuquerque Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Community Foundation, and the WK Kellogg Foundation, along with several other funders.
The key collaboration is between the Partnership for Community Action and Southwest Creations Collaborative (SCC), which is the main tenant of the Social Enterprise Center and, importantly, a provider of manufacturing jobs.
This aspect of the partnership helped PCA, which owned the land the center now sits on, secure the funding it needed to build the $4.5 million facility.
The arrangement means PCA gets space for staff members to engage families in adult education, youth mentoring, childcare, job training, leadership development and educational support , while SCC provides a concrete example of “social enterprise” – all under one roof.
The Social Enterprise Center alone promotes self-improvement and creates an environment in which South Valley entrepreneurs can succeed and grow.
But I recently had the opportunity to learn about another initiative called “Color Theory” from Josué Olivares, Executive Director of Rio Grande Economic Development Corp., who serves as the fiscal sponsor and coordinator for the Color Theory Coalition. .
The Color Theory initiative, which now includes a dozen organizations, aims to unite nonprofit groups in Albuquerque in a collaborative process to connect low-income people, minorities and neighborhoods to the tools they need. need to create economic opportunities through entrepreneurship.
This is a tremendous punch to revive the economy of the South Valley.
just the beginning
Over nine years, the South Valley Social Enterprise Center is expected to directly support 77 jobs, with an estimated annual economic impact of over $8 million.
Many know the history of Southwest Creations Collaborative, but as a newcomer, I am fascinated by how the female-led company does what it does.
Since its founding 29 years ago, SCC has been dedicated to giving its employees – mostly Hispanic women with children – the opportunity to build a better life for their families.
“If you give a woman the chance to earn an income, she will invest it in her children,” says Susan Matteucci, one of SCC’s founders and CEO.
CSC pays a living wage and provides low-cost, on-site childcare, as well as paid time off for workers to further their education, take citizenship courses, learn English, and participate in the school life of their children. children.
The activity is the manufacture of cut and sewn and manual work. Business revenue covers salaries and cost of goods, but SCC raises funds to support programmatic work, making it about 85% self-sufficient.
The magic is to see the results. Diana Camacho, one of the still-serving founders of the collaboration, cites her own family as an example of the life-changing power of the business model.
Not only has she gotten her GED, learned English and some computer skills, but her three children are on their way to established professional careers. She credits daycare and the opportunity to be an involved parent for their success.
The South Valley Social Enterprise Center aims to elevate the work of SCC, providing an opportunity for others interested in the concept of social enterprise to learn from the experience of SCC. “This project will be exported to all corners of the state,” Martínez said.
Wouldn’t it be great if the main exports of the South Valley were self-sufficiency and empowerment?