Hank Andrews, Managing Director of Verus Research, left, and Dr. Sameer Hemmady speaking at the engineering firm’s new facility in Albuquerque on September 13th. The Air Force Research Laboratory is Verus Research’s second largest source of income. (Mike Sandoval / For the )
Copyright © 2021
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s spending on space and “directed energy” technologies like lasers and microwaves has boosted the local economy by nearly $ 2 billion over the past three years, according to a new report on economic impact.
The study shows that AFRL’s New Mexico office, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, now supports nearly 2,700 local jobs, including about 1,100 from the Defense Department itself and 1,600 at local companies that either directly supply goods and services who supply AFRL, or who benefit from spending in the local economy.
AFRL investments, in turn, help build a resilient local industrial base as new technology companies emerge and local and national companies expand here to leverage development opportunities in space technology and targeted energy generated by defense spending, said Col Eric Felt, director the AFRL Spacecraft Directorate.
“AFRL is proud to be part of New Mexico’s thriving innovation economy,” Felt told the Journal in an email. “The report affirms that New Mexico is a great place for space and directional energy, with significant and growing industrial space, a skilled workforce, and tremendous opportunities to shape the future of space and directional energy for our state, our nation and our world . ”
The Journal received a pre-release version of the report that analyzes the AFRL’s local economic impact for the three-year period from Fiscal Year 2018 to Fiscal Year 2020. In these fiscal years, which run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30th
These spending resulted in additional economic activity of $ 730.5 million by companies that supply goods and services to AFRL or that are dependent on AFRL-induced spending in the local economy.
Additionally, at the federal level, AFRL has pumped an additional $ 36.5 million to dozens of local businesses through technology-related research and development grants awarded from FY 2018 through FY 2020.
AFRL represents only a small fraction of the total spending of all defense-related and US Department of Energy related facilities in Kirtland. Overall, the base contributed around $ 4.6 billion to the local economy in fiscal 2020 alone, according to a separate report released earlier this month.
But AFRL-specific activities are providing a huge, oversized push to local industry that has contributed to a surge in private sector investment in space technology, as well as research and development of laser and microwave systems, in recent years. Defense spending in these areas through AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate and Directed Energy Directorate, both located in Kirtland, have made emerging businesses a strong magnet for new facilities to be built in Albuquerque or for existing companies to expand their operations here.
For example, Verus Research – an Albuquerque engineering firm that designs, tests, and evaluates high-powered microwave and nuclear technology – moved to the old Babies R Us building on I-40 and Eubank in September after renovating the 44,000-square-foot building . Foot center into a high-tech research and development room. The company has grown exponentially since its inception in 2014, from $ 8.2 million in sales and 30 employees in fiscal 2016 to nearly $ 32 million and 106 employees in fiscal 2021.
AFRL is the company’s second largest source of income, said Hank Andrews, managing director of Verus.
“About 41% of the value of our current contracts are tied to the AFRL,” Andrews told the Journal. “AFRL is helping to build and expand the Albuquerque business ecosystem.”
Similarly, Virginia-based engineering firm BlueHalo announced this summer that it will be investing $ 60 million to build a new 200,000 square foot innovation and manufacturing center for space technology and managed energy systems in Kirtland, which is expected to employ approximately 320 people.
When it opens next fall, BlueHalo will be the first industrial tenant to settle on a proposed 70 acre mixed-use site called MaxQ, currently under development on the Kirtland property along the south side of Gibson between Carlisle and Truman. The MaxQ complex aims to attract many more high-tech companies to the base, which is now a central location for the US Department of Defense’s efforts to modernize space technology and make microwave and laser weapon systems fully available for use on the Prepare battlefield.
The AFRL has also set up two local programs to help companies win government contracts. This includes an annual business accelerator called the HyperSpace Challenge, launched in 2018 for select companies to partner with government customers to explore new technology developments that can support mission requirements.
And this year, AFRL and the US Space Force teamed up with the city of Albuquerque and local bodies like the New Mexico Trade Alliance to create a co-working space in Nob Hill, within the space-focused company Concentrate energy, get in contact with Kirtland units.
The steady advancement in local industry development enables AFRL to pump much more money into the New Mexico economy than it does from the state, said Matt Fetrow, director of the AFRL Technology Engagement Office.
“The report only reflects AFRL dollars that came into New Mexico and stayed in New Mexico,” Fetrow told the Journal. “New Mexico-based companies and national companies with local offices are making effective use of the opportunities here and are thriving.”
AFRL sponsored science, technology, engineering, math, or STEM programs benefit thousands of local K-12 students as well as hundreds of high school and college students through summer internships in Kirtland each year.
“This increases the future value of the local economy by inspiring more students to pursue STEM careers and helping expand New Mexico’s skilled workforce,” said Fetrow.