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Report: Air Force lab has $500 million impact in NM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Research on lasers, microwaves, satellites and other space technology at Kirtland Air Force Base is generating more than half a billion dollars in economic activity annually in New Mexico, while supporting 3,700 jobs, according to a new report from the University of New Mexico.

Kirtland’s Air Force Research Laboratory – which manages two directorates that conduct “directed energy” work on lasers and microwaves and research on space vehicles – contracted UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research to study the economic impact of those activities in fiscal year 2013.

The BBER report, released on Friday, showed that the Laboratory directly spent $315 million in New Mexico in FY 2013 on employee salaries and benefits, purchase of goods and services, construction and contracts with New Mexico businesses. That, in turn, generated an additional $221 million in local economic activity, for a total $536 million annual impact.

The Laboratory work created 861 direct jobs, plus 1,033 contractor jobs. It also supported 1,820 indirect jobs in private businesses.

“Those numbers blew me away,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D–N.M., at an event at the local engineering firm Fiore Industries in North Albuquerque to present the report. “That’s more than half a billion dollars that ripples annually through our entire community and economy.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D–N.M., said he and Heinrich are working to keep that money flowing.

“We have the momentum and we have to build on it,” said Udall, who sits on the Appropriations subcommittees for defense and military construction.

The Kirtland lab is helping to build “game-changing” technologies, said Col. David Goldstein, head of the Space Vehicle Directorate. That includes laser systems that can knock out incoming artillery and mortar rounds, high-frequency microwaves that can disable an adversary’s electronics and communications, and a range of space technology to monitor weather on earth and in space and to observe other satellites in orbit.

“We build, integrate, launch and operate space experiments,” Goldstein said.

Local business leaders said laboratory work has provided critical support for their industries. Fiore President and CEO Bob Miera said AFRL contracts helped him launch and grow his company, which reached $6.2 million in revenue and 100 employees in 2014.

Dan Gillings, president of the Albuquerque-based engineering firm Applied Technology Associates, said AFRL contracts now account for about 60 percent of work at his company, which had $45 million in revenue and 220 employees last year.

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