Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Sandia research park helps boost the local economy

From 2020-2021, the Sandia Science and Technology Park on Albuquerque’s far southeast side contributed more than $1 billion to the local economy. (Courtesy of Sandia Science and Technology Park)

Copyright © 2022

The Sandia Science and Technology Park in Southeast Albuquerque remains a powerful driver for local economic growth, significantly boosting the regional economy year after year, according to the Mid-Region Council of Governments’ latest biannual economic-impact report, released Wednesday morning.

The park, located just north of the Eubank entrance to Kirtland Air Force Base, is home to 40 companies, the vast majority of them high-tech firms that supply goods and services to Sandia National Laboratories and the Air Force Research Laboratory. That includes cutting-edge research and development, and manufacturing operations that provide critical support to the labs, while also helping to create new technologies for both the defense industry and commercial markets.

Park-based activities boosted the gross regional product – the total value of goods and services produced in Albuquerque and surrounding areas – by nearly $1.05 billion from 2020-21, according to the new report.

That, in turn, generated thousands of local jobs, including 1,786 employees working directly in the park as of year-end 2021 at an average annual salary of $97,339, or nearly double Albuquerque’s average annual salary of $54,028. And, for every park-based employee, roughly another two additional jobs are created in the region, generating 3,177 “indirect” jobs as of last December in everything from construction and manufacturing to retail, health care, and food and professional services.

That brought total direct and indirect park-related employment to nearly 5,000 employees last year in the mid-Rio Grande Region, generating $331.2 million in wages and salaries.

In fact, since the park’s creation in 1998, companies and organizations located there have paid nearly $7.2 billion in wages and generated more than $4 billion in taxable personal income. As a result, since 1998, the state has received $166.1 million in tax revenue and the city $36.6 million.

“Having the technology park in Albuquerque has been instrumental to the success of flagship employers and employees,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement. “For nearly 25 years, (the park) has supported our incredibly talented workforce, and spurred opportunity, innovation and continued growth in the city’s cutting-edge technology and research industries.”

Sandia Director James Peery praised the park’s economic impact.

“It creates jobs, attracts talented professionals to our state, and builds partnerships between the labs and the private sector that bring trailblazing technologies to the marketplace,” Peery said in a statement.

Still, despite the park’s ongoing economic vitality, companies located there suffered a lot in the global pandemic, contributing to a marked decline in direct, onsite employment as workers began telecommuting.

“That was particularly challenging for park-based operations because high-tech companies generally require direct work in the lab,” said Sherman McCorkle, board chairman for the Park Development Corp.

“COVID was doubly difficult for these specialized technology companies because most have labs that cannot be managed remotely, and everyone must show up,” McCorkle told the Journal. “Employees also travel a lot, and people from other places frequently visit the companies, so the pandemic was very hard on them.”

About 200 park-based jobs also disappeared in 2020 after Raytheon Technologies Corp. closed two facilities it operated there.

Total direct park employment fell 25% from prepandemic levels, down from 2,369 jobs in 2019 to 1,786 last year.

But, with the pandemic receding, many remote workers are expected to return to the park going forward. In addition, Virginia-based engineering firm BlueHalo LLC is now growing its park-based workforce after leasing two more facilities there this year, including one of the abandoned Raytheon buildings. That will expand its original park footprint from about 50,000 square feet to more than 200,000 square feet.

In addition, real estate firm Titan Development plans to build a new high-tech innovation center to attract more companies to the park.

“While the park was impacted by the pandemic, it is still bringing people to the area and creating jobs,” said Mid-Region Council of Governments Executive Director Dewey Cave in a statement. “The park companies helped fortify our communities during difficult times that have impacted everyone.”

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