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Flying 40: New Mexico’s high-flying TIGERS

Verus Research uses its pulsed-power facility in Albuquerque to support nuclear engineering research and development. (Courtesy of Verus Research)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s Flying 40 technology stars leapt to new heights this year with more than 30 percent growth in collective revenue and employment.

Most grew in the double digits, but some showed spectacular growth of up to 1,000 percent or more.

Taken together, this year’s technology tigers collectively reported $974 million in revenue and 4,957 employees. That’s up from $744 million and 3,709 jobs in 2014.

“As a group, all these companies are contributing nearly $1 billion directly to our economy each year, and they employ nearly 5,000 people,” said Randy Wilson, chief financial officer of the Sandia Science and Technology Park Development Corp., a principal sponsor and organizer of the annual Flying 40 awards.

The awards, which began in 1998, aim to recognize the achievements of some of New Mexico’s top-performing technology companies, while celebrating their critical contributions to the state’s economy.

Variety of specialties

Companies on the list encompass a broad range of industry activities, including engineering, information technology, aviation, aerospace and solar energy. Many provide services to the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense, to federal agencies such as NASA, and to commercial clients.

Most are homegrown firms, including recent startups and more mature companies that built their businesses from scratch in New Mexico. Many are marketing new technologies and services either originally developed in the state’s laboratories and research universities or created through grass-roots ingenuity.

The list provides only a small snapshot of the state’s technology sector. More than 3,000 technology companies operate in New Mexico, according to Cyberstates 2019, an annual state-by-state analysis of the U.S. tech industry published by the Computing Technology Industry Association. As of last December, those companies together accounted for $9 billion, or 10.4 percent, of New Mexico’s total gross state product. And they employed more than 67,000 people.

Showing what’s possible

But the Flying 40 shows what’s possible if the state actively promotes technology-based economic development, said SSTP Development Corp. Chairman and CEO Sherman McCorkle.

“If New Mexico is to become economically viable outside of oil and gas, it will be because of technology-based businesses and industry,” McCorkle said. “These are the best jobs that are created in terms of income, benefits and longevity. We do the Flying 40 to illustrate why it’s important to have a long-term, coherent focus on technology-based job creation.”

With more aggressive efforts to transfer technology out of the state’s labs and universities, a lot more technology startups could gain ground and build sustainable businesses, McCorkle said.

“More than $7 billion per year in federal government research and development is spent in New Mexico,” McCorkle said. “We need to feed that technology-transfer pipeline.”

Revenue categories

The full Flying 40 list reflects three categories of companies. That includes top revenue-producing firms independent of their annual financial growth, top revenue-growth companies with more than $10 million in annual income, and fast-growing firms with between $1 million and $10 million in revenue.

Growth is measured over five years, from 2014 to 2018.

As in past years, some of the 2019 awardees reported negative growth over the five-year period, reflecting the challenges startups face in bringing new technologies to market, Wilson said. But they all showed solid staying power, with strong business foundations and management resilience.

“Normal business trends create ups and downs in revenue each year, but these companies remain vibrant and healthy, and we want to celebrate their efforts,” Wilson said. “They’re bringing exciting technology to the market and employing New Mexicans. They’ve all showed themselves to be sustainable over five years.”

Some companies reported phenomenal growth.

Some phenomenal growth

Advanced Network management employees in New Mexico in a video conference with employees at a sister office. (Courtesy of ANM)

Advanced Network Management reported a 516 percent leap in revenue, from $17.7 million in 2014 to $109 million last year, earning it second place on this year’s list of high-growth companies with above $10 million in revenue. ANM, which grew its workforce from 60 to 177, offers system networking, security and cloud storage services.

Verus Research, however, took the top spot by growing its revenue 15,000 percent since launching in 2014. The company – which works on lasers, high-power microwaves and nuclear engineering – rocketed from $77,000 in revenue and four employees in its first year of operations to $12 million and 44 employees last year.

LoadPath has helped design, fabricate, integrate and test several spaceflight products. One of its specialties is thermal system design. (Courtesy of Loadpath)

LoadPath, which specializes in designing and building components and structures for satellites and launch operations, topped the below-$10 million list with 1,000 percent growth. Company revenue jumped from $347,000 in 2014 to $4 million last year.

The annual Flying 40 awards can provide inspiration for the myriad homegrown companies now launching in New Mexico’s budding startup economy, said John Freisinger, executive director of the Innovate ABQ development hub Downtown.

“It shows what all these new companies working to build technology products and services could become,” Freisinger said. “In coming years, I expect to see more of the startups that are now percolating here show up on the Flying 40.”

 

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