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SANTA FE — During our recent stay in Maui, I routinely bought the little newspaper printed on the island. It carried local news and a few Associated Press stories from the mainland.
One of those few AP stories that made it into the Maui News was about Hobbs winning a competition for the development of a nearby $400 million city with no people.
I remembered reading about this deal before. Someone was trying to talk a city up north, maybe Santa Fe, into entering the competition for a $200 million research city to test next-generation technology.
The thought occurred that this sounded like a Bill Richardson State Investment Council venture. But then I saw in the Maui News that New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was hailing the effort as one of the most unique and innovative economic development projects the state has ever seen.
Upon returning to Santa Fe, I learned that the venture had grown to $1 billion and that former Gov. Richardson’s Economic Development Department had declined to partner with Pegasus International Holdings because of its nebulous business plan.
Ironically, Gov. Martinez has been criticized for disinterest in any of Bill Richardson’s big projects. Could the corollary to that be that anyone who was turned down by Richardson might want to try again with Martinez?
The answer likely is no. Pegasus was looking for some public investment when it went to Richardson. Now the pitch is that nothing is requested other than guidance.
Ken Miyagishima, mayor of runner-up Las Cruces, said had the Dona Ana site have been chosen, it would have had to build $40 million of infrastructure for power generation.
Since the Hobbs/Lea County site is called The EnergyPlex, perhaps most of the necessary infrastructure already is available.
Wren Abbott of the Santa Fe Reporter has checked out Pegasus’ Dun & Bradstreet business profile and discovered that this $1 billion venture is a big leap for this company. Its biggest credit purchase since its 2004 inception was for $15,000 and the company has just one employee, Robert Brumley, its CEO.
Abbott also reports that the “global” part of the company is a mail drop in London and a previous high-tech ambitious adventure, Terre Star, went bankrupt.
But reviews of Pegasus on the Internet are mostly positive. The company also touts a second ambitious project to build the first international space launch facility — evidently to compete with Spaceport America.
It probably won’t get much state help from New Mexico on that venture, although White Sands Missile Range does confirm it has a research agreement to explore the possibility.
Hobbs is a happening place. The current venture with Pegasus is only one of many economic development projects in the area. If any community can make it work, it is Hobbs.
Last August, Pegasus and the New Mexico Economic Development Department signed an agreement to promote and facilitate the design, development and location of The Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation, or CITE
A board of advisers is being drawn from the federal laboratories, major universities and private sector from within the state in order to offer advice and guidance to Pegasus.
The design will include an urban footprint, with high-rise buildings and urban canyons; a suburban neighborhood, with mixed styles and neighborhood designs; rural/outlying residences, farms and ranches; open areas for expansion and isolated testing areas with unique designs.
It also will have an interstate, urban and rural road system; a ubiquitous wireless and fixed-line communications structure and it all will be fully integrated and in daily use.
This full-scale model community will provide a test venue that is essential for the United States to regain manufacturing superiority.
The Economic Development Corporation of Lea County says, “It is our open-for-business attitude and support of innovative industries that is garnering the attention of a wide variety of projects, such as CITE.”
Here’s wishing them the best of success.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.