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Proposal would help fund Descartes Labs expansion

Descartes Labs, which includes a number of former employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is seeking economic development funds from the state and city of Santa Fe to expand its headquarters. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Descartes Labs, Inc. moved its headquarters to Santa Fe earlier this year. Now, the city wants to make sure it stays.

On Monday, a proposal to provide the fledging company with $100,000 in local economic development funding will come before the Economic Development Review Subcommittee. According to information included in the packet for the meeting, the company is also seeking $700,000 in economic development funding from the state. The money would be used to pay for construction of tenant improvements and infrastructure “for the expansion of a new world headquarters facility.”

If approved, the money would be distributed to Descartes Labs over a five-year period, provided it meets all of its job creation goals and makes tenant improvements for what is estimated to be a $4.2 million project. With roughly 20 employees now working in Santa Fe, the company hopes to expand to between 70 and 90 employees within five years.

“This is a very good opportunity for the city,” said City Councilor Signe Lindell, who is co-sponsoring the proposal with fellow Councilor Peter Ives and Mayor Javier Gonzales. “It’s a high-wage opportunity and will help diversify our economy. They are an up-and-coming company, and we welcome them with open arms.”

Descartes Labs, founded in 2014 by a team that included some former Los Alamos National Laboratory employees, utilizes artificial intelligence software licensed by LANL to aggregate publicly accessible satellite images to analyze trends in such areas as urban sprawl, renewable energy infrastructure, the environment and agriculture.

Inc. magazine named it one of the 25 most “disruptive” companies of 2017, basing its criteria on “groundbreaking ideas — and ambitious plans for bring them to market.” Fast Company magazine this year picked Descartes Labs to represent New Mexico for an article on the “United States of Innovation.”

In August, the company announced that it had raised more than $30 million in private financing.

Previously headquartered in Los Alamos, and with offices in New York and San Franscisco, Descartes Labs moved offices to Santa Fe in May. But the money for improvements would be earmarked for a new location at the corner of North Guadalupe and West Alameda streets in downtown Santa Fe.

The company announced last month that it had signed a 10-year lease for 18,000 square feet of space at the Firestone Building, built around 1990 and previously serving as a music hall, sports bar and tire service station.

The building is now owned by Phase One Realty.

The proposal is on schedule to come before the City Council to publish notice of a public hearing on Dec. 13 and would be up for final approval Jan. 10.

Earlier this year, the Santa Fe City Council approved $250,000, to match $750,000 from the state, that allowed the arts collaborative Meow Wolf to purchase and renovate a 52,000 square foot building that used to be a Caterpillar manufacturing plant. When approved, the city said that building would serve as a creative studio and Meow Wolf’s “world headquarters.”

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