Central New Mexico Powers Up on Alternative Energy
Strong incentives and a growing cluster of research, development and manufacturing companies continue to spur Central New Mexico’s growth as the nation’s alternative-energy headquarters.
Thanks to support from the state and local governments combined with input and assistance from area colleges, universities, venture capitalists and others, new companies are steadily springing up while existing ones are relocating or expanding throughout the region. Success is breeding success, says Suzanne Roberts, director of project development and business assistance for Technology Ventures Corp., which connects technology-based clients to funding.
“We’re seeing positive activity on all fronts, from solar to wind to biofuels, and it looks to continue strong through 2010 and beyond,” Roberts says. “A lot of that is due to the significant growth of the venture-capital community here over the last decade; back in the early 1990s we didn’t have one firm here, and now there are between 15 and 20 with offices in New Mexico.”
TVC has been able to facilitate more than $1 billion in financing since setting up shop in 1993, a number that Roberts says bodes well for alternative energy’s future in Central New Mexico.
“The state offers a number of incentives, and that’s going to keep this area very attractive for companies,” she says. “Then throw in the Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, all that rich technology, and the venture capital, and you get a very good mixture of elements that are conducive to growth.”
The future is bright at Visible Light Solar Technologies, which has added almost 50 jobs in recent months, tripling its work force as it moved into a new, 32,000-square-foot building.
“We’ve got great support from the state and local governments that make it easier to be successful,” J. Dee Dennis Jr., president and chief executive officer. “We’ve been awarded a grant from the job-training program in our area, and that’s helped fund the early cycles of training for our positions. Now we’re focusing on delivering our products and developing everyday solutions to existing situations that we haven’t tackled yet. New Mexico has been a great environment for our business.”
SCHOTT Solar Manufacturing is also keen on the area, having opened a $125 million new plant in May 2009 that quadrupled the company’s photovoltaic-production capacity in North America and that will eventually expand to house 1,500 employees.
“When SCHOTT Solar began looking to expand, the desert Southwest was the most logical region in which to select a site,” says Dr. Gerald Fine, president and chief executive officer. “We wanted a location in a state with a favorable renewable-energy policy, other larger manufacturing facilities in the region, access to a skilled workforce and a collaborative education system. The state of New Mexico and the city of Albuquerque provided all these and also gave us clear financial incentives, fast permitting and a single point of contact.”
And that, he says, has created a diverse and healthy new-energy industry sector.
“When a region plays host to a number of businesses in the same sector, it fosters an ecosystem of competition and innovation,” Fine says.