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Google to pay $1M as Titan leaves NM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Google Inc. will repay the state nearly $1 million in economic assistance funds – the full amount the computer giant owes after pulling subsidiary Titan Aerospace out of Moriarty, New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela said Monday.

Google announced last week that Titan Aerospace was leaving its facilities at the Moriarty airport, where it has been developing a solar-powered drone.

Jon Barela

Jon Barela

The state’s investment had included $995,000 for infrastructure improvements at the Titan site, and Google has agreed to repay that amount under clawback provisions, Barela said. Those improvements, including water- and sewer-line extensions, are there for future use as officials seek another tenant.

“Therefore, the New Mexico taxpayers are actually ahead on this project,” Barela said.

Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart said Monday that having the airport infrastructure in place will help draw a new employer once Titan moves all its equipment out by the end of the year. The company will move to the San Francisco Bay Area, said Angie Welling, Google public policy and government affairs manager.

The city hadn’t planned on making those improvements for at least five years, he said.

“It certainly helps us out,” Hart said. “Now, we can promote jobs and business out in that area.”

Welling said in an emailed statement about the nearly $1 million payment, “Though our Titan team is transitioning to the Bay Area, we entered into an agreement with the city and state in good faith. We hope this allows the community to better position itself for the next wave of investments in Moriarty and in New Mexico.”

Titan has been working since 2012 to develop solar-powered drones as an inexpensive alternative to communication satellites, something both Google and social media giant Facebook have pursued to take Internet service to remote areas around the globe.

Google acquired Titan last year for an undisclosed price.

The effort suffered a setback in May when a Titan solar drone crashed at the Moriarty airport shortly after takeoff.

The company has about 40 employees in Moriarty. Hart said he is working with state officials to find other jobs in New Mexico for the employees who don’t want to leave the state.

“While it was disappointing that the jobs were pulled from Moriarty, we are working diligently to replace those jobs and, thanks to the infrastructure that was placed at the airport, we are optimistic … that those jobs may be replaced in a reasonable time period,” Barela said.