New Mexico is becoming a model state for “green” business development and practice.
New Mexico is taking a manifold approach to establishing itself as an environmentally conscious state. New governmental mandates, lucrative grants, and film production incentives have combined to create an oasis of green business in a state carved out of desert.
In January, New Mexico began requiring industries to report their greenhouse gas emissions. This measure, approved by the state’s Environmental Improvement Board (EIB), forces the largest industrial companies, including power plants and oil/gas refineries, to provide a record of their air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. Smaller companies will be required to report the same information as early as 2009. The rules allow a phasing-in of the greenhouse gases being reported, starting with carbon dioxide, followed by methane, and finally nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson calls this effort “one of the most comprehensive mandatory greenhouse gas reporting programs in the nation,” and hopes the measures taken will lead to the curtailment of harmful emissions affecting the state and global climate.
Also in January, New Mexico adopted a pollution-reducing Clean Car program. The program requires reductions in tailpipe emissions to decrease air pollution, and an overall lessening of greenhouse gas emissions, including air conditioning refrigerants, from vehicles sold in New Mexico. The program only applies to new vehicles and will not affect cars sold as new before model year 2011. The Climate Change Advisory Group, which includes environmentalists as well as representatives from oil and gas companies, utilities, laboratories, universities, and local governments, recommended the Clean Car program as one of the most affordable ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico.
Ron Curry, secretary of New Mexico’s Environment Department (NMED), says, “The Clean Car standard will help protect our state from the effects of climate change, including public health concerns, increasing temperatures, and lessening snow pack and stream flows.”
Government grants also exist to help cities and towns address specific environmental challenges. NMED recently awarded a $150,000 grant to the pueblo of Acoma, a 70-village community about 50 miles west of Albuquerque, marking the first time a pueblo has received such financial assistance. The Recycling and Illegal Dumping grant will be used to recycle 95% shredded scrap tires into a walking and running track for the 4,819 tribe members in Acoma. Municipalities, counties, tribal governments, land grant communities, cooperative associations, and solid waste authorities can apply for state grant money to clean up illegal tire dumps and stockpiles, purchase equipment and supplies for creating tire recycling facilities, or construct projects using scrap tires. NMED has awarded more than $4 million worth of grants since 1996.
New Mexico also offers a green filmmaking program to complement the state’s popularity as a production location. Specific incentives, such as a 25% tax rebate on production expenditures and an investment loan of up to $15 million, are standard benefits, but the state will consider additional financial benefits, such as waiving certain permit fees, for production companies that adhere to the principles of the green production program. The New Mexico Film Office offers all productions a “Green Information Packet” that explains the benefits of being eco-friendly, and also provides information about leasing hybrid/electric vehicles, using non-toxic supplies, harvesting rainwater, reducing waste, and using biodiesel for generators. Moreover, the office can supply contacts for environmentally friendly production goods and services.
A voluntary New Mexico Green Filmmaking certification program is also offered to key production personnel, such as production managers and coordinators, interested in more intensive training in green production. This certification aims to further the awareness and dissemination of information throughout the film production industry.
Academy Award-winning writer, director, and producer Paul Haggis, famous for films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, participated in New Mexico’s green filmmaking program last year while making In the Valley of Elah. “There were locations left and right,” he says.
Eco-friendly materials were used to build sets, disposal of recyclables was arranged at all filming locations, and only cars that operated on at least 22 miles per gallon were rented.
Schott Shoots for the Sun
Schott AG, a German-owned solar technology manufacturer, announced in January that it will build a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 80 acres at Innovation Park in Mesa del Sol, a master-planned community within Albuquerque, NM. An initial 350 jobs will be created, with as many as 1,500 jobs available when all phases of the plant are completed. This will be Schott’s largest facility in the U.S.
The company will produce critical components for solar thermal receivers and photovoltaic panels. Schott becomes the second solar manufacturer to join the Mesa del Sol renewable energy cluster, a cornerstone of New Mexico’s commitment to going green. Advent Solar Inc. has been in operation at Innovation Park for over one year.
Plans for the Schott facility include an initial $100 million investment. Construction on the first phase of the project is set to begin immediately, with production expected to start in spring 2009.
The Schott site benefits from being close to Sandia National Laboratories, a solar energy research center. Mike Daly, president of Mesa del Sol, cites New Mexico’s geographic proximity to key solar photovoltaic modules and solar power markets of the Southwest as a reason for Mesa del Sol’s ability to attract companies with a focus on renewable energy.
Mesa del Sol Mayor Martin J. Chávez believes Schott strengthens his community’s development of leading-edge “green collar” jobs.
Interview with Mark Lautman, Director of Economic Development for Mesa del Sol
Mesa del Sol is a growing, master-planned community built within the city limits of Albuquerque, NM. We chatted with Mark Lautman to discover more about this green business haven.
BF: What sets Mesa del Sol apart from other sites in New Mexico for businesses looking to relocate? What are its advantages or incentives?
Lautman: It is one of the largest infill developments in the country, with a master plan approved for 100,000 residents, 38,000 rooftops, 20 million square feet of commercial and industrial space, and the potential for 60,000 new jobs. It is juxtaposed to downtown Albuquerque, the international airport, and Sandia National Labs, and three new Interstate 25 interchanges are planned to be built.
The developer has committed to building a community that uses a fraction of the water and energy used by existing subdivisions in the region. The master plan emphasizes proximity; all the residential services, employment centers, recreational spaces, and educational amenities are within walking and biking distance of every resident.
As a formal condition of its development agreement, the developer must create twice as many economic base jobs as needed to support the residential population, for a total of 30,000 new jobs. To that end, the developer has 1,400 acres of industrial and office park inventory, and a fast track, build-to-suit lease program.
BF: The whole business world is talking about “going green.” What role do you think Mesa del Sol plays in this trend?
Lautman: Mesa del Sol was planned as a sustainable community from its inception, with conservation of water, energy, and people’s time as the major design focus for subdivisions, homes, and commercial and institutional buildings. For example, Mesa del Sol is pursuing the development of a major solar power plant facility to feed local and regional renewable energy demands. Mesa del Sol will be one of a few large-scale communities in the U.S. where every home is Energy Star-rated and most commercial buildings meet LEED standards.
BF: With solar energy companies like Advent and Schott, and with Sandia National Laboratories nearby, Mesa del Sol is growing as a renewable energy cluster. Do you foresee this industry becoming your main focus? If so, should other types of companies still consider your community for relocations?
Lautman: Employers in the renewable energy sector are one of the five primary industry targets that Mesa del Sol is actively pursuing to fulfill its job creation commitments. Proximity to Sandia National Laboratories, numerous state tax credits, bond programs, grant programs, and alternative fuel incentives, plus New Mexico’s abundant sunshine, make it an ideal site for a renewable energy cluster.
In addition to the renewable sector, Mesa del Sol has targeted the film and digital media industry, financial services, federal government services, and medical sports and wellness as future economic clusters.