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Sandia helps small businesses in state program

Sandia helps 310 state businesses in NMSBA program

Sandia assisted 310 small businesses throughout New Mexico in 2002, helping to solve pressing technical problems ranging from how to detect and extract oil from the ground more efficiently to developing better packaging to prevent fragile ceramic tiles from breaking during shipping.

The Labs provided the assistance under a program that went into effect in mid-2000 after its approval by the New Mexico Legislature. The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program allows Sandia to give up to $5,000 a year worth of technical advice and assistance to small businesses in the Albuquerque/Rio Rancho area, and up to $10,000 a year worth of help to small businesses outside that area.

"We are excited to see the program grow each year; in fact we were oversubscribed last year. We are especially happy to help small businesses that would find if difficult, if not impossible, to find help solving difficult technical problems," says Lenny Martinez (14000), VP for Manufacturing Systems, Science & Technology, and the NMSBA program director. "And this assistance, in turn, is helping small businesses grow, increasing the businesses’ capability to support not only the labs, but to become suppliers to companies outside New Mexico. And, it is generating additional employment opportunities for New Mexico."

What makes the program unique is that the state does not allocate money for the program. Instead, in exchange for helping small businesses, the state "forgives" Sandia a portion of the gross receipts taxes it pays each year. During 2002, Sandia received $1.67 million in tax credit, 77 percent of which went to small businesses in rural New Mexico and 23 percent to small businesses in Bernalillo County. Sandia is the state’s single biggest gross receipts taxpayer at an estimated $62 million for FY03.

There are few requirements for small-business participation — mainly that companies must be bona fide for-profit New Mexico small businesses (500 or fewer employees), and Sandia can help only when such help isn’t available for a reasonable cost through private sources.

Success stories

A few examples:

Providence Technologies Inc. of Roswell, which leads a consortium of small New Mexico oil producers, sought assistance in locating hard-to-find oil deposits using seismic modeling. Marianne Walck, Manager of Geophysical Technology Dept. 6116, led Sandia’s effort. Her department focuses on solving problems in fossil energy, hazardous and nuclear waste management and restoration, defense, nonproliferation, and energy-related basic research. Sandia was able to provide $40,000 in assistance in 2002 since the consortium consisted of multiple companies, and that amount is growing this year as the project continues.

"When people think of oil companies they often think of the Shells and Exxons, but there are many small independent companies out there that are left out in the cold," Marianne says. "We are helping the small independents, which helps the domestic energy supply. This is also good because we’re helping New Mexico at the same time."

El Kabode Tile of Las Cruces makes custom handmade ceramic tiles using old-world methods that they then ship throughout the country. Each tile is usually part of a larger pattern and therefore unique. If any tile breaks during shipping, the entire pattern is spoiled. David Szklarz of Materials Mechanics Dept. 9123 helped oversee a series of stress tests and container-design analyses that led to the design of a custom container. The container consists of foam-lined interior walls. Each tile was then wrapped with bubble shrink wrap and then the tiles were placed on end in the container like a loaf of bread.

"This turned out to be both effective and user-friendly," David says. "It wasn’t a highly engineered operation, but it did solve the problem, and our work helped let the community know that Sandia has a community partnership with outside industry."


Results of the 2001 NMSBA program show for each dollar spent on an assistance project, 98 cents was recovered by the state through taxes within the first year. Over a one-year period, 44 jobs were retained and 68 new jobs were created. The results also showed that participating New Mexico small businesses reported a total of $3,380,000 of increased revenue and a $1,703,500 decrease in operating costs, and participating small businesses spent $2,147,500 to expand operations and $828,600 on local goods and services.

More information on the NMSBA program is available from Mariann Johnston in Sandia’s Regional & Small Business Partnering Dept. 1302, 284-9548.