CNM-Led Coalition a Finalist for Multi-Million Dollar Federal Grant that Could Accelerate New Mexico’s Emergence as Space Industry Hub

A proposed Space Valley center, new vertical launch capability at Spaceport America and increased support for space technology startups would put New Mexico at forefront of space industry, attract global business opportunities, and create thousands of jobs
December 17, 2021

This week the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA) notified a CNM-led coalition that it is now one of just 60 finalists for the federal Build Back Better Challenge that will be awarding large economic development grants up to $100 million in 2022. 

The CNM-led team—which is called the New Mexico Space Valley Coalition and consists of CNM, CNM Ingenuity, the NM Trade Alliance, NewSpace New Mexico, and Spaceport America—landed a finalist spot by submitting a proposal that details an in-depth plan for turning New Mexico into a regional hub for the fast-developing commercial and federal space industry. According to New Space New Mexico research, this industry is forecast to grow by 800 percent to $3 trillion in 20 years and the coalition will facilitate that growth through a six-part plan that includes infrastructure investments, workforce and business development, and partnerships with existing technical experts at both federal and private organizations here in New Mexico. 

“We’re very excited that our New Mexico Space Valley Coalition has been selected as a finalist for the Build Back Better Challenge,” said CNM President Tracy Hartzler. “New Mexico is very well-positioned to become a national space industry hub and we’re encouraged by the Economic Development Administration’s support of our proposal. The bold vision and collaborative spirit of our Space Valley Coalition partnership was critical in us being selected a finalist. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to further develop our proposal and earn the Phase II Build Back Better grant that would greatly accelerate New Mexico’s emergence as a leading economic force in the space industry.”

According to the Space Valley Coalition, New Mexico has already laid the groundwork needed to become a commercial space hub. The state has a high concentration of space technology companies including Virgin Galactic, Blue Halo, Redwire, and SolAero as well as several high-tech companies including Intel and Facebook. The state has large-scale federal research and development capabilities via three national labs, three Air Force bases, and White Sands Missile Range. There are also four U.S. Space Force organizations currently at Kirtland AFB.

CNM would play a pivotal role by leading two key aspects of the grant’s six-part plan. First, the college would offer both credit and non-credit classes that would train up the employees needed to staff the growing space technology workforce. CNM Ingenuity programs as well as the college’s Computer Programming, Cyber Security, Network and Systems Administration programs would all offer training and the college would partner with employers such as Intel, Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Lab, Verus Research, and others to ensure the skills taught match the need. Additionally, CNM would partner with other educational and training providers to maximize the workforce possibilities available to the space industry in New Mexico.  

Second, CNM would also lead projects called the Venture Capital Fund and Venture Studio. The Venture Capital Fund would establish a follow-on fund to the existing Ingenuity Venture Fund, a private fund managed by CNM Ingenuity that supports New Mexico-based technology ventures. It would invest at the pre-Seed, Seed, and Series A stage of companies in the space domain, especially those associated with this initiative. The Venture Studio would build and fund start-ups with product, legal, marketing, design, and development needs to help grow companies from idea to execution and beyond. The goals of the Fund would be to build private capital, establish an investment portfolio of 20 New Mexico-based companies in five years, and grow 10 new seed-funded startups with space affiliation over a five-year period with the Venture Studio. 

The four remaining parts of the plan include:

  • Creation of a Space Valley Center — The Center would be a New Mexico-based facility where national-sized space events would take place and some areas would be constructed to Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) standards so that Secret and Top Secret/SCI level information could be shared. The Center would also house Venture Capital Fund and Venture Studio and offer office and development space for local startups. 
  • VLA Payload and Rocket Operations Facility —There are currently only four U.S. spaceports with vertical launch capabilities so this part of the project would turn Spaceport America in southern New Mexico into the fifth and greatly expand its capabilities.
  • Q-Station Expansion — The Q-Station collaborative ecosystem was designed for the Kirtland-based Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to help incubate small/startup tech businesses that align with AFRL’s innovation clusters. As part of the grant, Q-Station would expand into the Space Valley Center, increasing its footprint and capacity to incubate and accelerate startup space technology companies.    
  •  Unite & Ignite Expansion —  Unite & Ignite Space is a congressionally funded co-innovation hub that will expand into the Space Valley Center and enable space companies to elevate their readiness levels and accelerate their product development and sales with access to additional workspaces, equipment, programming, rapid prototyping and demonstration, and guided navigation services that shorten the path to customer contracts. 

According to Kyle Lee, CNM Ingenuity’s Chief Executive Officer and one of the grant leads, the six-part plan was specifically designed to draw from CNM’s past experiences with workforce and economic development and was structured to ensure success of the space industry.

“To create a strong and thriving economic engine you need three things: a trained workforce, a diversified business ecosystem, and a location and infrastructure to support those first two. The reason we’re now a finalist is because the CNM-led team and New Mexico absolutely have all three. Needless to say, we’re very excited about the next step,” Kyle says. 

 The next step for the Space Valley Coalition will be to work with all the partners to write out a Phase II proposal that’s due in March 2022. Phase 2 awards will be announced in September 2022 and the awards will come with a five-year period of performance.