Like many other companies, Albuquerque-based Sombra Professional Therapy Products pivoted to making hand sanitizer once the COVID-19 pandemic reached Albuquerque.
But where many other companies moved out of the sanitizer business once the market became saturated, Sombra has doubled down, making sanitizer a key part of its product line. The company recently purchased a 112,000-square-foot industrial facility at 245 Woodward Road SE with the intent of dramatically scaling of its hand sanitizer production, according to John Martinez, Sombra’s director of public affairs and business development.
Martinez told the Journal the expansion will allow Sombra to expand its line of sanitizers and scale up production enough to meet demand from a handful of new government contracts, including an order from the city of Albuquerque. Long term, Martinez said Sombra, which traditionally specializes in lotions and gels, expects sanitizing products to comprise about one-third of its overall product line.
“This will become one of our primary products,” Martinez said.
Martinez said the facility will provide products for Sombra under a separate spin-off company, Cortazar Laboratories.
To find a facility that worked, Sombra’s owner needed to navigate Albuquerque’s notoriously tight industrial market. In September, metro Albuquerque’s vacancy rate for industrial space stood at just 2.78%, virtually the same as it was before the pandemic began, according to a quarterly report from NAI Maestas & Ward.
Riley McKee, industrial and logistics real estate advisor for the firm, said an already-tight market combined with robust federal support and the added need for warehouse space during the pandemic to ensure the market for industrial space stayed strong even as other sectors of the economy faltered. The result, McKee said, is an environment where high-quality industrial space doesn’t remain on the market for long.
“We’re effectively at full occupancy in a way,” McKee said.
Martinez said the company searched for a space that would fit its needs for six months before settling on the 10-building, 14-acre property. Because of its size, Martinez said Cortazar won’t initially be using the entire facility. The company is currently looking at other services it can provide from other parts of the massive space.
While Martinez said the company needs to make a few changes to the space, the facility is expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2021.
In addition to hand sanitizer, Martinez said the company plans to make a disinfectant spray for masks at the new facility. While focusing on sanitizing products may be a risk once the pandemic abates, Martinez said Sombra is gambling on the virus changing permanently changing how often people use hand sanitizer.
“We’re betting on the fact that humans are creatures of habit,” Martinez said.