Relishing Change: Synthia R. Jaramillo
By Gloria Romano-Barrera
Director of Economic Development for the City of Albuquerque, NM, Synthia R. Jaramillo is changing a traditional environment into a forward-thinking enterprise, looking beyond Albuquerque’s existing opportunities for businesses and the community.
With 16, 511 minority-owned businesses in Albuquerque, according to 2012 U.S. Census Data, Jaramillo remains committed to drive not only the city’s economy but be the voice of Hispanics and Latinos.
During Jaramillo’s tenure at the organization, enormous change has happened. Appointed by Mayor Tim Keller in 2017, she is the first woman to lead the department. In her time as Director, she has led several initiatives to aid businesses in creating jobs in Albuquerque. Under her leadership companies such as Netflix and NBCUniversal have chosen to expand into Albuquerque. A champion of small and local business, she created the Small Business Advocacy Office to offer resources and support to Albuquerque’s small businesses and created a $1 million workforce training program called Job Training Albuquerque.
“I am very fortunate to work for a Mayor that realizes that equity should always be at the forefront and understands and believes that his cabinet should reflect the community,” shares Jaramillo.
Overseeing the recruitment and retention of companies, International Trade Office, Small Business Office, Film Office, and Albuquerque’s Tourism entities, Jaramillo created and launched the city’s first Small Business Advocacy Office. She has also created and launched Job Training Albuquerque, a program for employers to skill-up their workforce and for employees to gain high-demand skills and industry-specific certifications. Developed a Strategic Workforce and Small Business Recruitment Plan.
For Jaramillo, economic growth in Albuquerque is critical to making and keeping Albuquerque strong. “According to several data points Albuquerque is behind the rest of the United States in income growth for everyone,” she shares. “Our families deserve better. They deserve access to good-paying jobs and if they are running their own businesses, they deserve access to incentive programs. Turning these trends around and fulfilling the cities’ enormous potential is and will always be at the forefront. My approach has always been and will always be rooted in the principles of equity and we know that the strongest economies are those that prioritize equitable growth to create jobs for all walks of life.”
From job creation, to industry diversification, to increasing tax revenue, Jaramillo’s goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone in Albuquerque by improving the economy.
For Jaramillo, success didn’t come easy. It meant a lot of hard work, long hours, and fighting the good fight.
Today she credits her mentors, Loretta Armenta and Linda Alvarado, President & CEO, Alvarado Construction, for being an instrumental and invaluable part of her career. She recounts the story of when Loretta hired her at the age of 21 regardless of her informal education. “She was a reflection of what I had hoped to be in the future and had a huge influence in my life,” she shares.
A mother of two, Jasmine and Genesis, Jaramillo is proud of her roots and
believes the work ethic and values instilled by her parents and grandparents have shaped the person and professional she is today.
With parents migrating from Chihuahua, Mexico, Jaramillo witnessed them work several jobs at a time. Raised by her grandparents, she was taught she would have to work hard or possibly work harder than everyone else because of her Synthia with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller background and skin color.
“The work ethic instilled in me is the reason where I am today,” she shares. “If it wasn’t for that inspiration and what I witnessed, I don’t believe that I would be the director of economic development for the city of Albuquerque.”
Prior to her current role, Jaramillo spent nearly two decades at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. She led the organization into becoming the largest Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in the country with more than 1,400 members, built an innovative program of work, and introduced the first bilingual Entrepreneurship Accelerator called Emprendedores.
An accomplished fundraiser, Jaramillo has raised millions of dollars throughout her career to benefit causes that support the local business community. While at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, she led a $3.4 million capital campaign to build the Barelas Economic Opportunity Center, leaving the campus completely debt-free.
Jaramillo is heavily involved in the local community and is a nationally recognized thought leader in entrepreneurship, fundraising, small business growth, and community empowerment. She lends her expertise and leadership to the community by serving on many boards for business and community organizations including Ex-Officio Board Member (Executive Committee), Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce; Ex-Office Board Member, City of Albuquerque Small Business Regulatory Commission; Board Member, Advisory Board Member, New Mexico Small Business Development Center Statewide Advisory Council; and Leader/Member of Albuquerque’s Living Cities Integration Initiative.
Jaramillo believes her greatest and valuable asset is her ability to cultivate and establish relationships. “I believe and understand everybody has a story to tell,” she shares. “Everybody has their own experience regardless of color and background. I believe we are a powerful force when we come together and unite. When we see the first woman president at the White House, then we could claim victory.”