Our Journey

The Quality New Mexico Story

New Mexico's quality initiative started in September 1991 when Motorola Senior Executive Vice-President Chris Galvin challenged New Mexico government, business, and education leaders to make New Mexico "The Quality State". Speaking at a business forum in Las Cruces, Galvin said New Mexico could take the first step toward this goal by having representatives from the public and private sectors attend a quality seminar at Motorola University in Schaumburg, Illinois to determine whether similar principles could be applied in New Mexico. Motorola earned the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1988.

In response to Galvin's challenge, 30 New Mexicans traveled to Schaumburg in January 1992 to attend the one-day quality seminar. The delegation included U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Governor Bruce King, State Economic Development Secretary Bill Garcia, and Santa Fe Mayor Sam Pick. From the private sector, Joyce Godwin of Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Larry Willard, formerly with Wells Fargo Bank, Ed O’Leary of First National Bank, Ron Solimon of Laguna Industries, and Bill Enloe of Los Alamos National Bank.

Bingaman, Domenici, and King called the seminar a solid first step to developing a comprehensive strategy establishing and educating the state in quality principles and practices. Business and organization leaders, inspired by the seminar, vowed to meet in New Mexico and develop an action plan. Both Bingaman and Domenici lent their support to the group.

Two dozen New Mexicans met in the spring of 1992 under the guidance of Bingaman’s assistant, Ricardo "Zuni" Zuniga, to put together goals and establish a mission for the 'Quality State Initiative'. They determined Governor’s Business Executives for Education (GBEE) would continue promoting quality initiatives in grades K-12 and coordinate their activities with the newly organized Quality New Mexico.

In July 1992, Bingaman announced the kickoff of the U.S. Senate Productivity/ New Mexico Quality Awards at a small business forum in Las Cruces sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories and New Mexico State University. Charles Tapp, Director of Quality Improvement at Sandia National Laboratories, had a vision that New Mexico should have a state award program to improve its economic competitiveness.


Quality New Mexico is Born

In April 1993, at the request of Bingaman, Sandia National Laboratories appointed Julia Gabaldón, a loaned Sandia executive, to lead New Mexico’s Quality Initiative. The initiative quickly gained the support of dozens of corporate sponsors and volunteers from PNM, Sunwest Bank, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Quality New Mexico started on its journey in July 1993 with a reception and news conference at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe. Gabaldón announced that Quality New Mexico had already received $500,000 of in-kind contributions including office space in downtown Albuquerque, furniture, computers, and salaries for other staff.

Quality New Mexico - A Force for improvement

Julia Gabaldón

Julia Gabaldón

In 1994 Quality New Mexico (QNM) established the New Mexico Quality Awards program. In 2012 the program changed its name to the New Mexico Performance Excellence Awards. Governor Susana Martinez provided a logical time for QNM to make the change with Executive Order 2012-003 "Whereas, the State of New Mexico desires to be known as a "State of Excellence" with its businesses and organizations achieving role model and best-in-class performance status". 


The NMPEA provides a 'multi-tiered' approach for businesses/organizations on a formal journey to excellence status - 4 levels of assessments and public recognition:

  • Level 4 Zia Award excellence
  • Level 3 Roadrunner Award progress
  • Level 2 Piñon Award  commitment
  • Level 1 Adobe Awardfoundation

QNM uses the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria as the tool to conduct a self-assessment. The assessment and formal feedback help you identify your strengths, gaps, and opportunities for improvement. 

To date, 734 New Mexico organizations have achieved formal recognition: 504 Piñon Recipients, 216 Roadrunner Recipients, and 14 organizations achieving Level 4 - the prestigious NMPEA Zia Award

Three New Mexico organizations have continued their journey, beyond the Zia Level, achieving the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. 

  • Don Chalmers Ford Rio Rancho 2016 MBNQA
  • Department of Veteran Affairs- Cooperative Studies Program Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center Albuquerque 2009 MBNQA
  • Los Alamos National Bank Los Alamos 2000 MBNQA