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City Wins Two Prestigious International Awards for Micro-Business Relief Program

Keller administration program was innovative model to get funds where they were needed fast

Nov. 15, 2020

A program from Mayor Tim Keller’s administration to help keep local businesses afloat with direct, nearly-unrestricted grant funding—one of the first of its kind in the country—has earned international recognition from the renowned International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The Micro-Business Relief program was created and deployed in March to deliver rapid funding into the hands of small business owners who otherwise may not have had any access to funding, or did not have access quickly enough, to survive the early stages of the pandemic.

The Economic Development Department (EDD) is receiving the IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award in the category of Neighborhood and Retail Development and the Bronze Award in the category of Resiliency, Recovery, and Mitigation, both for a city of more than 500,000 people. The awards were presented earlier this month at the IEDC 2020 Annual Conference, held virtually.
The Resiliency, Recovery, and Mitigation category recognizes programs that represent a successful recovery initiative from natural and man-made disasters. The Neighborhood and Retail Development category recognizes innovative programs that stimulate and facilitate the revitalization or redevelopment of distressed or devastated neighborhoods, including retail-oriented, business-oriented, people-oriented, place-oriented, and community-building efforts. Judging criteria included achievement through measurable results, economic impact on the community, originality and innovation, and relevance and transferability to other communities.

“By pivoting quickly when the pandemic hit, we were able to implement an unprecedented municipal effort to get grants out the door to the diverse businesses that make up the backbone of our local economy,” said Mayor Timothy Keller. “Not only was the Micro-Business Relief Program a first of its kind in the country, but it is now serving as a model for other communities. Building resilience in our economy was critical as it became clear that this crisis wasn’t going away anytime soon.”

Accelerator for America has named Albuquerque’s program among only a handful in the country as a “real example of the best funds across the nation.” The national organization also has listed and promoted the City program on its website as part of its COVID-19 toolkit. The mission of Accelerator for America is to find and develop solutions to economic insecurity and share them with cities to create national change.

“We knew small businesses needed help and needed it fast when COVID resulted in shutdowns that directly affected our economy,” said Synthia Jaramillo, Economic Development Department director. “Our team acted quickly and developed this program before CARES funds were even available, and as a result many local businesses and jobs were preserved.”

The relief program provided 150 qualifying micro-businesses with working capital grants of $5,000 each, totaling $750,000, to support daily operating expenses and overcome temporary revenue losses at the outset of COVID-19.

Lauren Tobey, who owns and operates Meltdown Studio, a jewelry-making collective where classes are held and jewelers can rent space to create their own products, is a recipient of a micro-business grant. “During the first few months when everything was cancelled, we were not able to open our studio or have people join us for any of our basic offerings,” she said. “Because we really didn’t know how long things were going to last, having the City come through and offer something that was so well-allocated was a huge lifesaver for us.”

Tobey is grateful she was able to stay open as she was slowly able to reopen, following all COVID-19 safe protocols, because the creative outlet her business provides helped people who were emotionally and mentally struggling during the pandemic.

IEDC’s 35 Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities, according to the IEDC website.
The International Economic Development Council is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 5,000 members across the United States, as well as Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations, the IEDC is the largest organization of its kind.