Back in December, the New Mexico Space Valley Coalition learned that its bold vision to boost New Mexico as a national space industry hub was embraced by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and its Build Back Better Challenge.
The New Mexico Space Valley Coalition’s Phase I grant proposal was one of 60 nationwide, among 529 applicants, that advanced as a finalist for a Build Back Better Challenge grant of up to $100 million.
Since the Phase I proposal thrust New Mexico into contention for an epic economic development triumph, the spirited and well-conceived effort has only gained more momentum. The original members of the Space Valley Coalition are Central New Mexico Community College, CNM Ingenuity, the New Mexico Trade Alliance, NewSpace New Mexico, and Spaceport America. The City of Albuquerque recently joined the cause. And now, New Mexico State University is on board, partnering with the coalition plans to advance the Space Workforce of the Future project.
New Mexico already has the needed runway for the state to quickly soar higher as a commercial space hub, literally and figuratively. We have Spaceport America. We have a high concentration of space technology companies in New Mexico, including Virgin Galactic, Blue Halo, Redwire, SolAero and more. We have Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Labs, three Air Force bases, White Sands Missile Range, and four U.S. Space Force organizations currently operating at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The Space Valley Coalition is also aligned and supports the space industry goals of the New Mexico Economic Development Department. To elevate New Mexico’s space industry even higher, the Space Valley Coalition has proposed six primary initiatives. These are:
• Space Valley Center
• Rocket Assembly Building Located at Spaceport America
• Space Workforce of the Future
• Q Station Expansion
• Unite & Ignite Space Expansion
• Venture Studio and Venture Fund
You can find details on the initiatives at www.spacevalley.org.
The Space Workforce of the Future component is how the CNM-NMSU educational partnership along with the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech and Navajo Technical University will help democratize access to space industry careers and help all New Mexicans benefit from the economics of space.
If the Space Valley Coalition succeeds in the Build Back Better Challenge, CNM and NMSU, along with UNM, NMT and NTU, will work directly with leaders in the space industry to create, refine or expand education and training programs that will produce the workforce needed to support industry growth, from engineers to IT professionals to skilled trades technicians.
We’re no strangers to helping skill-up a robust and diverse workforce. Now, we have the opportunity to adapt those winning approaches to a specific industry, aligned with the power of a coalition, to put New Mexico at the forefront of that industry. Specifically, the grant funding would help us recruit a diversity of New Mexicans, including those most affected by the pandemic, people of color, women, tribal members and low-income households. Funding would also deliver direct student support, including financial aid and wrap-around support services to help students persist and earn certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees that lead to space careers and financial security for families. We will create Space Transfer pathways between our institutions so students can transfer easily if they seek to obtain higher level degrees. And our Space Valley Coalition partners are committed to connecting students with employers for work-and-learn opportunities that allow students to earn a living as they develop critical, industry-valued skills. Then upon completion, graduates would be prioritized for permanent, full-time careers.
All of our New Mexico Space Valley Coalition partners are united, prepared, and ready to put our plans into action in the fall. And as higher education and workforce development leaders at CNM and NMSU, we are united in our common goal to educate and train New Mexicans for life-changing careers that fuel the ascension of our state’s space industry.
The Executive’s Desk is a guest column providing advice, commentary or information about resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for consideration, email email@example.com.