ALBUQERQUE-With its state motto being “the Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico conjures up images of sprawling vistas and colorful buttes with a river thrown in here and there. What it might not conjure up, however, is a growing population with a booming residential and commercial development in its wake.

New Mexico in general and Albuquerque in particular have entered the business and real estate consciousness as a strong location for growth and development. Sandia National Laboratories, under its Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Application project, is developing a 400,000-sf spread in three buildings, valued at approximately $500 million. Intel Corp. is undergoing a $750-million upgrade of its campus. And just south of the city, the 12,900-acre Mesa del Sol, under the development of the Forest City Covington NM LLC, is taking shape as one of the largest master-planned developments in the US. Vacant land on the west side is being snapped up for future office and mixed-use development. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on here,” laughs Gary Tonjes, president of the Albuquerque Economic Development Inc. He and Sul Kassicieh, associate dean for the Anderson School of Management at University of New Mexico say that growth in Albuquerque is not necessarily news because it’s been going on for awhile, thanks to the strong government-backed companies in town, but it’s accelerated in the past two years.

Kassicieh, who also serves as the university’s endowed chair of economic development, says the combination of venture capital flowing into the area in the past decade–combined with smart decisions by the state government and organizations supporting technology development–have encouraged businesses and people to move to the area. “It also doesn’t hurt to be listed Number One for business and careers on Forbes’ Magazine poll,” he adds.

Kassicieh tells that entrepreneurial development, in the form of suppliers for government and the technology industry, is helping to drive growth in the real estate sector. “I think we’ll see a lot of the larger companies here wanting their smaller buyer-suppliers around here,” he predicts.

Tonjes agrees with Kassicieh, but adds that suppliers will be more willing to have a location as their customers’ volume picks up. Tonjes also believes the ingredients for growth have been around for awhile, but the 2004 relocation of Eclipse Aviation from Scottsdale, AZ to Albuquerque, helped to fuel interest in the region plus brought new jobs. In addition, the personal income tax level was cut to 4.9% from 8.2% which, when teamed with other incentives, have made the city very attractive to businesses and people.

But, is there a possibility of too much in too short a time? Kassicieh says there is a concerted effort by Albuquerque leaders to work toward planned growth. “On the one hand, you want to encourage a business-friendly atmosphere and give new companies space,” he says. “On the other hand, you worry about destroying the aesthetic part of the city. It’s a hard tug of war, but I think the city has been doing a good job to figure out the issue.”

Tonjes tells that the growth isn’t out of control just yet although there’s been thought given to the situation. “There are certainly some policy makers and people who want to make sure we don’t lose the character that people love about Albuquerque,” he says. “Everyone wants to be sure the development done here is of high quality.”

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