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Editorial: Film, defense play starring roles in NM’s fiscal future

The NBCUniversal deal is almost made for the big screen.

There’s a hero – Ed Garcia, a real estate investor who wouldn’t say die when it came to his Martineztown warehouse.

There’s supporting cast – lawmakers who have worked behind the scenes and in front of the cameras for years to craft the balance on subsidies for the behemoth film industry.

There was conflict – when locals scoffed at Garcia’s asking price for the Commercial Street property, he held onto the line, hoping against hope to land a whale.

There’s a final feel-good scene: NBCUniversal announces plans to employ more than 330 full-time workers and spend $500 million over a decade to create projects in Albuquerque. These are good, skilled jobs that will pay a good wage. When indirect workers are included, the company’s presence will have an estimated $1.1 billion economic impact over 10 years.

And there’s the distinct possibility of sequels: With heavy hitters Netflix and NBC landing in the Duke City, are more to follow? It’s good news, though serious questions remain about how much the public will actually derive from – and how long it can afford to dole out – tax-funded subsidies with huge carve-outs on caps. It bears careful, constant scrutiny.

If film is the new guard, news the same day about Albuquerque engineering firm Verus Research being awarded a $48 million defense contract was a reminder the old guard – the military industrial complex – is still alive and kicking, albeit in a new, non-lethal, high-tech electronic form that targets specific threats and minimizes bloodshed and loss of life.

Verus, launched in 2014, specializes in modeling, simulation, testing, and design and development of lasers, radio frequency communications like high-power microwaves, and nuclear engineering. It just won a 10-year, $48 million defense contract to design effective methods to test and evaluate high-powered microwave and other non-explosive weapons and systems. The firm topped New Mexico’s 2019 Flying 40 list of fast-growing tech companies with revenue above $10 million.

These two announcements demonstrate how both the film and defense industries continue to star in New Mexico’s economic story, bringing in new jobs and new money, and that diversification is key to any happy ending.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.