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NM lobbying White House for high-tech manufacturing hub


WASHINGTON – Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry and other New Mexicans representing the state’s national labs, private industry and universities lobbied the White House Thursday to consider Albuquerque for a new federal high-tech manufacturing hub.

The New Mexico Advanced Photonics Manufacturing Consortium, based in Albuquerque, hopes to convince the federal government to designate Albuquerque as an official “Manufacturing Community,” a designation that could make it eligible for up to $1.3 billion in future federal economic development investments. President Barack Obama highlighted his wish to create new high-tech manufacturing hubs around the country during his State of the Union address in January.

The Albuquerque consortium contends that New Mexico’s expertise in optics and photonics technologies makes it a natural location for a federally-sponsored research and manufacturing hub. Optics and photonics technologies are used in robotics, medical imaging, next-generation displays, defense, biometric security and many other fields. Work of this nature is done at local companies, at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, and at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base.

“We’re doing this research,” Berry told the Journal Thursday in Washington. “It’s happening in New Mexico right now. We think we’re in a spot to compete.”

Berry, along with Sanjay Krishna, director of the Center for High Technology Materials, and Jim McNally, chairman of the New Mexico Optics Industry Association, and others met with officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology and other administration officials.

Berry said the meeting also was beneficial for broader reasons.

“It’s about opening bridges to Washington,” the mayor said.

The Obama administration already has opened two such manufacturing hubs, including one in Youngstown, Ohio that has received $30 million in federal dollars and focuses on 3-D printing. A second hub is in Raleigh, N.C. and is slated to receive $70 million from the Department of Energy. This hub, called the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute, will bring leading companies, universities, and federal research together under one roof to help develop the next generation of power electronics.

The president has also launched hubs in Detroit and Chicago, with Detroit focusing on the lightweight and modern metals manufacturing and the Chicago location concentrating on digital manufacturing and design technologies.

New Mexico’s congressional delegation wrote to the U.S. Department of Commerce Thursday urging consideration of Albuquerque as an optics and photonics hub site.

The administration’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership will select up to 12 “Manufacturing Communities,” giving them elevated consideration for up to $1.3 billion as well as assistance with workforce and training, advanced research, infrastructure and site development, supply chain support, export promotion and capital access.

“The economy has changed,” Obama said in a February speech to private sector executives and members of Congress at the White House. “If we want to attract more good manufacturing jobs to America, we’ve got to make sure we’re on the cutting edge of new manufacturing technologies and techniques. And in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.”