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Solar entrepreneur is NM’s first billionaire

Ron Corio

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Longtime Albuquerque resident Ron Corio is now billionaire No. 2,524 on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s richest people.

The magazine, which published its latest rundown of global billionaires this week, said Corio is New Mexico’s first billionaire, with a net worth of $1.1 billion as of April 6.

The New Jersey native, who came to New Mexico in 1979, launched Array Technologies in 1989 at the age of 28 with just $16,000 in personal funds. He built the company – which makes tracking systems for solar arrays that tilt and turn the panels to follow the sun – into a manufacturing mammoth that now controls 30% of the U.S. solar-tracker market.

The company went public last October on Nasdaq, raising more than $1.2 billion and pushing the firm’s total valuation at that time to about $3 billion.

Array reported $827.7 million in revenue last year. The company owns a 43,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Albuquerque, plus 26,000 square feet of office and warehousing space. It employed nearly 350 people as of last June.

Corio stepped down as company CEO before Array went public, but remains on the board. He sold several hundred million dollars’ worth of stock in the initial public offering and in a secondary offering, and he still retains an 11% stake in the company, according to Forbes.

Now 59, Corio is a self-made entrepreneur who put his nose to the grind, and to those who know him, he’s as humble as they come.

“I always lived under the radar,” Corio told the Journal on Wednesday. “I kept my head down and worked hard. I had some serendipity in my life and it happened, but it took a lifetime to get there.”

Corio is one of 2,755 global billionaires included on this year’s list, but one of only 724 in the U.S.

His new-found fame as a Forbes-listed billionaire and New Mexico’s wealthiest resident is inspiring others who have worked for years to build jobs and wealth in the state.

“I was so excited when I heard the news,” said John Chavez, a longtime local investor and former head of the New Mexico Angels investing group. “It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to develop innovative technology and find the right customers and markets. It’s great news that this happened to a fellow New Mexican, and it’s an inspiration to everyone.”

State Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, a Corrales Republican who helped pass a state tax credit for local angel investments, said it shows that New Mexicans can build thriving businesses.

“So often we hear that we have to court out-of-state companies and give money away to get them to come here, but to have a homegrown company reach this level speaks volumes as to what can be done here by individuals who are part of our community,” Powdrell-Culbert said.

University of New Mexico Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila, who leads the university’s technology transfer efforts and educational programs to inspire local entrepreneurship, said Corio represents a shining example.

“He’s a great symbol for our state, because so often we put ourselves down,” Kuuttila said. “We need success stories like these that encourage people to say ‘if he can do it, I can do it too.'”

Corio, who lives in the North Valley, said it’s all about following your passion.

“The big thing is to find something you believe in and persevere at it,” Corio said. “That’s what it comes down to, to get this kind of success – believe in what you do and stick with it.”

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