Connect NM program graduates 30 professionals

These professionals are the latest graduates of Leadership New Mexico’s Connect New Mexico program. (Courtesy of Leadership New Mexico)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Thirty young professionals from around the state have graduated from Leadership New Mexico’s Connect New Mexico program.

Open to professional 25 to 40 years old, Connect New Mexico The Next Generation of Leadership is designed to help participants develop personal leadership skills, learn how New Mexico systems and structures work, and explore critical issues facing the state, according to a news release from the organization.

Graduating from the eleventh class of the program were: Angela Baca, business banking relationship manager, U.S. Bank; Aly Bachechi, senior financial analyst, U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union; Emily Brudenell, architect and partner, The Hartman & Majewski Design Group; Molly Calvani, project manager, NCA Architects; Tracy Chiado, marketing manager, Wilson & Co. Inc., Architects & Engineers; Natalie Chiha, business management professional, Sandia National Laboratories; Brooke Dixon, health system specialist/group practice manager, Department of Veterans Affairs; John Foley, executive strategy professional, Sandia National Laboratories; Lynn Goldstein, NERC CIP program manager, PNM; Scott Koller, electrical engineer, Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers; Josh Lujan, client executive, HUB International Insurance; Amanda Guth, human resources specialist, Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group, La Vida Llena; Meghannraye Sutton, accounting manager, DMC Logistics; and Nate Wells, executive director, Heritage Hotels & Resorts.

Leadership New Mexico is dedicated to identifying and enhancing leadership by providing a forum to identify and explore the challenges and opportunities facing New Mexico. Participants are drawn from diverse ethnic, gender, regional and business backgrounds.

Applications are being accepted for the 2018-2019 Connect New Mexico Program and 2018-2019 Core Program. The deadline for applications is March 15. For an application visit or call 505-398-1500.

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Skipti takes Airbnb concept to next level

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Rich Engstrom, second from right, chats with Michael Arner, front, while meeting with Ioana Engstrom, left, and Lynn Platow, right, as they discuss Skipti, which is designed to connect owners of household goods with people who want to rent them. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Uber and Airbnb have turned the sharing economy into a global phenomenon, but the next big thing in peer-to-peer online rental services may carry a Made-in-New Mexico stamp.

Skipti, the new platform, will launch in June to connect owners of household goods with people who want to rent them, courtesy of longtime Albuquerque entrepreneurs Rich and Ioana Engstrom.

It’s been two years in the making, starting with Rich Engstrom’s original Skipti eureka! moment in fall 2015, followed by an 18-month effort to build foundational software in partnership with Romanian engineers. In the process, the Engstroms have assembled a team of internet professionals to take the business forward.

Skipti executives, including Michael Arner, left, meet in Albuquerque with Mike DePace from Boston, Radu Busuioc from Romania, and J. Pablo Puerta from San Francisco. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

That includes renowned sharing-economy guru Juan Pablo Puerta, a Spaniard who built craigslist into a worldwide brand and who led international expansion efforts for Yahoo Search, Etsy and SoundCloud. Puerta came out of semi-retirement to lead Skipti as CEO because of the concept’s potential.

“It’s a model that makes sense, with a platform that’s built to basically rent out anything,” Puerta said. “Skipti is fundamentally an Airbnb for everything.”

Through Skipti, which means “exchange” in Icelandic, people with things to rent can rapidly upload photos and descriptions of items onto the platform with a suggested price tag. They log rental availability onto Skipti’s built-in calendar, allowing renters to select items and pay for them with a few finger clicks. That automatically alerts Skipti partner to pick up the rented good from its owner, deliver it to the renter and return it again afterward based on the times and dates logged on the calendar.

Unlike other sharing platforms, that process eliminates “meet-ups,” making transactions safer and easier for participating parties, said Ioana Engstrom, the company’s head of investor relations. All rental items are insured against theft, breakage or bodily injury.

“Owners can rent practically anything, from cameras, costumes and party stuff to tools, baby equipment or even books for students,” Ioana said. “They can also create bundled rentals, say for a weekend camping trip with all the needed equipment delivered in a single package.”

Skipti earns a 15 percent charge on each transaction, but the company says cost comparisons for dozens of household items show Skipti renters could save an average of 42 percent compared with traditional rental services.

Skipti basically puts everybody’s “excess capacity” to work by pulling idle goods out of closets and garages, said Rich Engstrom.

“It’s the same concept as Uber, where people who don’t use their car all the time can now make money off that ‘excess capacity’ by connecting up with people who need rides,” he said. “But in this case, there’s no driving around at night, and someone else will pick up the items and return them to owners.”

Some estimates indicate that about $1.6 trillion in excess stuff is sitting around unused in U.S. homes, Engstrom added.

The Skipti concept is based on today’s growing population of baby boomers and others who live on fixed incomes and need extra money. That, combined with the millennial generation’s preference for renting or leasing things rather than owning them, constitutes the company’s target market.

The official launch starts June 16 in Boston, chosen for its millennial population of university students, large community of fixed-income homes and the city’s reputation for embracing sharing services like Uber and Airbnb. The initial launch will last three months, providing critical feedback to improve Skipti’s platform before spreading nationwide and beyond, Ioana said.

Company executives have invested nearly $1 million of their own sweat equity and capital. They’ve also raised $500,000 in seed funding and are now working on a $2.5 million round of venture investment with help from a Utah fund.

The company will remain headquartered in Albuquerque, where the Engstroms and two other Skipti executives live. The full eight-member team, however, meets virtually every week at RIEtech Global, a manufacturing company run by Rich Engstrom in the north Interstate 25 industrial corridor.

All the executives have their own businesses, but they’re now focusing full time on Skipti.

“We’ve all stepped back from operational roles in our own companies to dive into this, because we believe it could be bigger than anything we’ve done before,” said Skipti Chief Branding Officer Lynn Platow, a digital design executive from New York.

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GAAR data shows improvements for central NM – Albuquerque Business First

Albuquerque’s housing market saw bright spots of improvement last year compared to 2016.

According to Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS data, the metro area saw improvement in homes sold and in home pricing compared to 2016. Single-family detached home sales rose 6.9 percent to 11,477 units, with the median sale price also rising 3.8 percent to $196,900. And condo and townhome sales rose 11.1 percent from 2016 with the median sale price sitting at $142,000 compared to $140,000 in 2016.

“The Albuquerque metro area’s housing market was very active in 2017,” wrote Danny Vigil, 2018 president of the Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS, in a statement. “Since more homes sold at a higher price point, our local housing market grew to $292 billion in 2017. That’s up by more than 12 percent from 2016.”

GAAR data also showed the majority of homes were sold within the first 60 days of being on the market – 56 percent sold within the first 30 days on the market.

Twilight Homes, which was in the top five on Business First’s 2016 Homebuilders List, reported 2017 was a record-breaking year for the company with sales increasing 30 percent from 2016.

“What’s so significant about our sales last year is that home sales in New Mexico have been flat for at least five years,” Twilight President Tim McNaney said. “For us to see a 30 percent increase in this environment is huge.”

McNaney, whose co-president is Vincent Pizzonia, said the highest volume of sales was in the Albuquerque area. He credits a "hands-on" approach to home building, saying Twilight is highly accessible because it’s local.

Twilight Homes is planning on seeing an approximate 40 percent increase in sales in 2018 based on current projections.

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How to find out about $160K in scholarships for New Mexico students

High school students celebrate their graduation with many looking forward to college, but not the costs associated with higher education. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The Albuquerque Community Foundation, which manages $160,000 in scholarships available to New Mexico students, has announced details and deadlines for 19 awards programs.

Each was established by a individual or family with individual interests and priority areas, the news release said.

Requirements vary for each program. Most can be applied for online at

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Fairfield hotel opens in North I-25 ‘restaurant row’

The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott recently opened in the North I-25 corridor. (Courtesy of Marriott)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With New Mexico’s tourism numbers rising, tourism promoters are always eager to see more hotel rooms coming on line for business and leisure travelers.

A series of openings by Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Santa Fe and Albuquerque should help on the lodgings front, specifically the Duke City Fairfield that recently opened for business along “restaurant row” in the North Interstate 25 corridor.

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Crime Can Happen Anywhere

I have this friend who lives in a small town and she believes that this makes her exempt from being the victim of a crime. That is a ridiculous notion, especially since I know that things can happen regardless of where you live. I used to think the way she did until recently, but I know better now.

I think that people believe that cities like Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago are the only place where random acts of gang violence happen, but that is not true. I have a cousin who lives in Little Rock and he can tell you that there are rough people all over his city. I also know a few people in Connecticut who complain about gang activity all of the time.

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Discover The Uniquely Comfortable Climate Of Albuquerque New Mexico

What do you know about the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico? Think for a moment about what you would imagine the climate to be like. Do you picture a hot, desert climate? Maybe you already know that the city is high altitude, and therefore, are you thinking plenty of rain and possibly snow? Perhaps you have no clue, but you’re about to find out more about the weather in this great city and how residents seem to get to enjoy a little bit of everything.

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Albuquerque New Mexico History

The area of Albuquerque is located in the central part of New Mexico and is the largest city in the state. With an outlying population of almost 1 million individuals, there are certainly many people that call it home. It is not only an area that offers much to those who live in it, it is also rich in history as well. That history dates back quite some time, and looking at the modern-day history can give you a greater appreciation for what Albuquerque New Mexico has to offer.

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4 Fantastic Eateries in Albuquerque New Mexico

Albuquerque New Mexico is a city filled with history, museums and culture. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s also home to a variety of eateries serving up delectable dishes all over town.

Farm & Table

You can’t go wrong with a local restaurant that serves up a seasonal menu comprised of homegrown produce and locally sourced foods and wine. Farm & Table offers delightful entrees featuring fresh vegetables and salads made of ingredients grown on a farm run by the restaurant—hence the restaurant’s simple name.

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