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New Mexico governor, executives attend aerospace summit

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The governor of New Mexico has hosted about 30 executives in the aerospace industry at a closed-door summit to reportedly collaborate on strategies promoting business development in the state.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke Wednesday to leaders from Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic and multiple laboratories and businesses at the Space Valley Summit held at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces Sun-News reported Thursday.

All reporters were asked to leave following a series of introductory speeches and after the governor said every New Mexico resident should know “exactly what is happening here.” Her office said Friday that the governor was unaware that the summit was going to be a closed event.

Scott McLaughlin, the spaceport’s director of business development, told the Sun-News that discussions over the four hours did not include proprietary or sensitive information, but broader topics such as science education, how New Mexico can retain graduates, and opportunities for the state to attract more aerospace businesses.

The recent creation of the U.S. Space Force, an initiative promoted by President Donald Trump, also was a topic, he said.

Spaceport America previously demonstrated a desire to extend confidentiality on behalf of its customers and partners beyond proprietary technical or strategic information. It recently settled a 2018 lawsuit filed by a Las Cruces journalist who sought the disclosure of rent and fees paid by some spaceport customers.

The information had been redacted in responses to public records requests and other documents were reportedly destroyed, said Heath Haussamen, an independent journalist who publishes on NMpolitics.net.

Following the lawsuit, state lawmakers granted the New Mexico Spaceport Authority — the public agency that governs the spaceport — greater secrecy in legislation signed by former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Lujan Grisham, who is starting her second year as governor, said public information about the spaceport authority is available to taxpayers, but that confidential information concerning the commercial interests of spaceport tenants and research partners generally warrants protection.

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