John Rizzo still wants to do his part to build an innovative economy in Santa Fe and New Mexico. Two years ago, he had visions of building something called the Santa Fe Innovation Village on 28.5 acres he owns, plus 105 adjacent acres for which he has options along Beckner Road.
His vision for an innovation village may yet happen, but for now, Rizzo said he is more focused on public policy and venture capital.
“I’m a technology entrepreneur, not a real estate developer,” Rizzo said. “It’s much more interesting for me to stick to what I know: creating jobs in the technology space. Development vision I would prefer to leave the to real estate developers. I’m working with real estate developers in Santa Fe.”
Rizzo in 2021 envisioned his “post-COVID” innovation village on Beckner as a collection of housing – including affordable housing – and offices that have collaborative spaces, individual work areas, Zoom conference space, and residential design tailored to working at home.
For now, his Beckner acreage is on his back burner, but he believes there may be developer announcements by the end of the year.
“I’m just having others focus on real estate,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo, 65, has been active in the Silicon Valley tech scene since being part of the Apple Macintosh development in the early 1980s. He also worked at Oracle and Intel before launching seven startups, selling his last, Deem, in San Francisco in 2019. He remained CEO until 2020.
Rizzo bought a house in Santa Fe four years ago with plans to eventually retire here. COVID-19 moved full-time residency up a few years to March 2020.
Rizzo had already launched his vision for Santa Fe with a New Mexico Innovation Triangle, including Los Alamos and Albuquerque. He has met continuously with civic, state, and business leaders.
In 2021, his visions dovetailed with “Empower & Collaborate New Mexico’s Economic Path Forward,” a statewide strategic plan produced by the state Economic Development Department. The report proposes targeting nine specific private sector industries for expansion: aerospace, biosciences, cybersecurity, film and television, outdoor recreation, sustainable and value-added agriculture, intelligent manufacturing, global trade, and sustainable and green energy.
“I’m trying to put more meat on the bones [of the plan],” Rizzo said.
He said he will lobby the state to make New Mexico more friendly for the innovation economy.
“I will lobby for tax reform and allocating more capital for early-stage venture investing,” Rizzo said. “It would be good to end the year with some legislation for 2024. The Job Training Incentive Program could be expanded. There would be an angel investment tax credit. There could be a version of the film tax credit for the nine target industries.”
Rizzo’s goal is to create 25,000 tech jobs in 10 years, reasoning each tech job creates six other jobs. He believes the innovation economy can create 175,000 jobs in New Mexico.
“First of all, you need places for people to live and work,” Rizzo said. “Second, you need financial capital for startups. Third, you need to create an ecosystem.”
The ecosystem, he said, is public policies that help the innovation economy evolve. The target industry most evolved so far is a film, which is thriving under the 25% film tax credit, plus additional 5% tax credit for using qualified production facilities such as studios and ranches with Western sets or shooting in a rural area.
Three years make a big difference. Especially these last three years. The coronavirusl pandemic upended everything.
In the opening year, Rizzo brimmed as a potential new developer on a grand scale. In 2019, he first envisioned incorporating his innovation village idea which he had already been pondering for four years into the city-owned midtown campus.
Rizzo was one of seven contenders to be the master developer of the renewed midtown campus but did not progress to the three-team shortlist. KDC Real Estate Development and Investments/Cienda Partners ultimately became master developers but withdrew in 2021 as the condition of the 60-year-old campus proved too unwieldy.
Rizzo left the midtown campus behind and focused on his Beckner Road property. During the past two years, however, he chose to retreat from the developer role. Full-fledged developers are better suited to tackle those challenges, he reasoned.
“I’m not spending a lot of time on the Santa Fe Innovation Village,” Rizzo said. “With inflation and interest rates, it’s created extraordinary challenges.”Source: Yahoo News